New iCloud tool released by Apple to verify iOS Activation Lock status

Yesterday, Apple made another webpage available to assist users with iOS security.

This time, the website lets users verify the status of an iOS device’s Activation Lock feature.

Available since iOS 7, Activation Lock is a bolt on to the Find my iPhone service, protecting lost or stolen iOS devices by locking out users who do not know the Apple ID and password registered to that device.

Once activated, without knowing the Apple ID credentials, a user cannot disable Find My iPhone, perform any data wipe or reactivate the device under a different name.

This new tool is primarily aimed at assisting those purchasing a second-hand iOS device who want to make sure they will be able to access the device without chasing the seller for deactivation of Find My iPhone.

This new web-based iCloud tool is accessible here, as shown below:

 

ios activation lock status

You will need to know your iOS device’s IMEI, (International Mobile Equipment Identity) or the serial number and then enter a CAPTCHA phrase:

ios device activation captcha

The iOS device identifier will then be checked against an Apple internal database to confirm if Activation Lock is active or disabled:

ios activation lock on

Certainly if you are purchasing a second-hand iOS device, perhaps from an online selling site such as eBay, or even from a work colleague, friend or family member, this tool could be useful to ensure that the Activation Lock feature is disabled prior to purchase so you can gain full access to the device.

Obviously, a second-hand phone could potentially get locked by the seller AFTER you have checked the status, but before you receive the phone, but this is still better than nothing!

I would say that this is more useful to know that if you are buying a second-hand iOS device and this tool states that Activation Lock is ON. If you then contact the seller and they deactivate it, then by the seller having the ability to deactivate the Activation Lock feature, they should be the legal owner of the device and within their right to sell it to you.

If a device is stolen that has Activation Lock enabled, an illegal seller of that device would not be able to deactivate this feature.

Apple has released patches for the Bash vulnerability

Since the announcement of the vulnerability in Bash, Apple has released patches for Mavericks, Mountain Lion and Lion. It is recommended that you download and install these patches, asap!

 

Nice hidden iOS 8 features

iOS 8 has many new features, some of which perhaps aren’t as widely known. From playing on my iOS device and browsing the browsing the web, , I have discovered some of the following hidden gems!

Send your iOS device’s last location to Apple – before your battery drains

If you’ve ever lost or misplaced your iOS device, this new feature allows your device to send its last known location to Apple when the battery drains to a critical level.

This feature was turned off by default on all my devices, to change it you need to:

  • Open Settings
  • Select iCloud | Find my (device)
  • Turn on the option for Send Last Location

FindMyIpad

How to Improve Battery Life

iOS 8.0 has some great new features, but since updating I have been experiencing battery drain. Apple’s OS updates have been known to suffer from this until the release of v*.1.

Until then, here’s what you can do to improve your iOS device’s battery life.

  • Open Settings
  • Select General
  • Select Usage
  • Select Battery Usage

By accessing this feature, which is dependent on what apps you are running, you can reduce battery drain. For example, if you see that the Mail app is using a lot of the battery – then you can change the background refresh settings.

extend your ios devices battery life

Open Desktop Site webpage instead of Mobile version in Safari

When browsing the internet on my iPad, some websites will load a mobile version.
Fortunately, iOS 8 makes loading the desktop version a lot easier:

  • Open Safari
  • Navigate to a website as normal
  • Once the mobile version loads, tap the address field, then swipe down
  • Select the “Request Desktop Site” button that appears

The Shellshock Bug & Workaround

NB: Apple has released the following patches:

This was tested on 10.9.5.

A new vulnerability has been discovered in the bash shell which is affectionately being called “shellshock”. It’s worth pointing out that this is quite serious and should be addressed.

There are some comments on blogs stating that “it’s not as bad as we think” so I will take a moment to explain what it could mean to you so you can make up your own mind.

The bash shell is built into almost every Mac OS X system (I say almost, as some clever person may have decided to remove it from their Mac). The deep, technical description taken from the following site is:

“Bash supports exporting not just shell variables, but also shell functions to other bash instances, via the process environment to (indirect) child processes. Current bash versions use an environment variable named by the function name, and a function definition starting with “() {” in the variable value to propagate function definitions through the environment. The vulnerability occurs because bash does not stop after processing the function definition; it continues to parse and execute shell commands following the function definition.

For example, an environment variable setting of:

  VAR=() { ignored; }; /bin/id

will execute /bin/id when the environment is imported into the bash process. (The process is in a slightly undefined state at this point. The PATH variable may not have been set up yet, and bash could crash after executing /bin/id, but the damage has already happened at this point.)

The fact that an environment variable with an arbitrary name can be used as a carrier for a malicious function definition containing trailing commands makes this vulnerability particularly severe; it enables network-based exploitation.”

Source: http://seclists.org/oss-sec/2014/q3/650

In a nutshell, this means that the shell has a small bit of code that it runs without question on certain older versions of bash. This code can be modified very easily so the attacker can add their own “bits” into it to give them access to your Mac and do as they wish.

From what I can gather it seems like this is only really a problem for computers that have some kind of external access enabled such as SSH or a web service. Some people have said “well that’s ok, I’m not running a web server”. The problem is, you probably are.

A lot of applications start up a small web service to perform their functions, not to mention the cups service running on port 631 that is accessible through a web browser by going to http://localhost:631.

I took a look at my Mac to do a quick port scan and see if I could “lock things down” but have decided that will be ultimately unachievable without a lot of work.

After a bit of digging, I decided that upgrading my bash shell was the simplest course of action so here are some instructions.

How to upgrade bash in OS X to version 4.3.25 to avoid the shellshock attack:

Its probably worth checking first that you are affected. Run the following command in the terminal and it will report back to say if you are vulnerable:

 env x='() { :;}; echo vulnerable' bash -c 'echo hello'

You can also check the actual version you are using:

 bash --version

You’ll get an output something like:

dave$ bash --version
GNU bash, version 3.2.51(1)-release (x86_64-apple-darwin13)
Copyright (C) 2007 Free Software Foundation, Inc.

It affects versions 1.13 (22 years ago) up to 4.3. I’m running 3.2.51 which is affected.

To start the upgrade process, install brew from the command-line by entering the following command and pressing return:

ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/master/install)"

Quick note – I had XCode installed on my Mac but I hadn’t launched it since a recent update and so the above command was complaining that it couldn’t run properly. I just had to launch XCode, accept the Ts & Cs and then re-run the command.

Once complete, install the newest version of bash:

brew install bash

In my case it put it into /usr/local/Cellar/bash/4.3.25/bin/bash. The standard place for bash is /bin/bash.

Finally, you can either edit /etc/shells to remove /bin/bash and add the correct path to your new version or replace (after backing up) the default version of bash.

If you do opt to change the path in /etc/shells, make sure you also change the default shell in your user record.

The default shell can be changed from System Preferences or with dscl, but all three options just modify /var/db/dslocal/nodes/Default/users/user.plist

I just backed up the existing /bin/bash with:

mv /bin/bash ~/Desktop/

and dropped in the new version with:

dave$ bash --version
GNU bash, version 4.3.25(1)-release (x86_64-apple-darwin13.4.0)
Copyright (C) 2013 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
License GPLv3+: GNU GPL version 3 or later <http://gnu.org/licenses/gpl.html>
 
This is free software; you are free to change and redistribute it.
There is NO WARRANTY, to the extent permitted by law.

So I am running 4.3.25 which isn’t affected.

As a final check, I run the env check which should fail to run.


Disclaimer:

While the author has taken care to provide our readers with accurate information, please use your discretion before acting upon information based on the blog post. Amsys will not compensate you in any way whatsoever if you ever happen to suffer a loss/inconvenience/damage because of/while making use of information in this blog.

Should I Learn Objective-C or Swift?

learn swift or objective c

Since Apple released the new iOS programming language, Swift, online forums and indeed the Amsys training email inboxes have been awash with questions like, Well – what do I do now? Should I learn Objective-C or Swift?

And our answer has been – both!  Here are our top 3 reasons why you should learn both iOS programming languages.

If you want to be a successful iOS app developer, you will need to understand Objective-C.

Why? Because you will need to understand the framework and the architecture of iOS apps.

Objective-C and the C language has been around for 20 years. Therefore, any iOS developer worth his salt, will need to understand the fundamental building blocks of iOS apps. Amsys Training recommends that you start off with Objective-C and then go on to learn Swift, which will be a walk in the park – as a result.

Every current iOS and OS X App has been developed using Objective-C.

Swift is only in its infancy, and Objective-C won’t be going anywhere for the foreseeable future.

Consequently, your future employer or potential clients will be hiring on the basis that you have at least an intermediate understanding of both languages.

During interviews, you may well be asked a question that refers back to the Objective-C language. If you don’t possess this fundamental knowledge you won’t be able to respond with a confident and correct answer – and you will be shown the door pretty quickly!

You will be lost without Objective-C.

Without learning Objective-C, it will be nigh on impossible to learn the Cocoa libraries (Apple’s native objective oriented application programming interface or APIs). These libraries allow you to add animation, networking and the “native platform appearance and behaviour” to your apps, with just a few lines of code. Once you understand the Cocoa way, the complex nature of Objective-C’s syntax will no longer be a problem.

Plus, as a developer, you will be looking at the source code of a variety of apps, some of which will contain Objective-C, as the two languages can be used side by side. If you don’t know Objective-C, then you simply won’t know what certain lines of code have been created to do.

So… if you’re still at a loss on what do.. learn Objective-C first, and then learn Swift!

iOS developers: Contracting VS permanent roles

The Amsys Careers team has recently been given the task of recruiting a new iOS Development team for one of our clients in Scotland.

Whilst resourcing the large pool of iOS developers in the UK, I have noticed a trend.

It’s still a contractors market.

Permanent is a bad, bad, word for developers – from ‘I only want to work Tuesday to Thursday’ to ‘I don’t work during the day!”  However, with the explosion of  enterprise apps, more and more companies are now looking to recruit in-house teams on a permanent basis with competitive salaries, which provides the kind of security that contracting simply doesn’t.

Pros & Cons of Being a Contractor

PROS CONS
You’re your own boss You’re your own boss
£500+ a day! Where’s my next project?
Make your own hours 18hrs coding still @ day rate
Working from home MacBook’s died! ££££££

 

There is always going to be a market for contract iOS developers, but many of you are missing the optimum chance to use your skills and capabilities to create some great apps whilst having a secure career.

Personal development and training.

Swift is as we all know, the future in app development, which is why Amsys Training has been inundated with bookings for our new Beginning and Advanced Swift courses.

So – should you spend money from your own pocket? Or receive it for free once Amsys Careers finds you that perfect, secure and rewarding new role? Sound interesting find out more here.

Do you know a friend or past colleague looking for their next step?

If you’re happy as a contractor or in your current role, then ask about our fantastic referral scheme! By passing your friend’s details onto Amsys, and when they start their new role, you will be rewarded too.

Which brings me back to my main point; please forgive my ramblings.

My client! They are looking to build a new iOS Development Team. The team, which will take their successful business forward by creating in-house apps across the business, will each receive an enviable salary of £60,000 to £70,000 + benefits; this really is an opportunity not to be missed.

So if you fit the following bill, then apply online today, or call 028 645 5807.

  • Minimum 5 years overall development experience including 1-2 years coding for iOS devices in Objective-C/Cocoa/Xcode  (including SQLite for local storage).
  • Experience of SQL Server (Any Version).
  • Solid knowledge of Git.
  • Experience using web services (e.g. REST, JSON, XML).
  • Experience of working with local storage for offline functionality.
  • Any experience working with iBeacons will be advantageous.
  • A link to a working iOS application that you have created or worked on.
  • Must have commercial software product development experience and not purely building internal or personal software projects.
  • Familiarity with core iOS frameworks.
  • Strong analytical and problem solving skills.

View these roles now:

If you’re interested in hearing more – contact me on 0208 645 5807 or email me at jamesh@amsys.co.uk.

 

Q & A with Cisco’s Meraki

meraki elevated partner

Earlier on this year, we announced that we had joined the Cisco Meraki Elevate Partner Programme, to bring a secure, easy to manage and cost saving cloud networking solution to our SME and Education clients.

We got in touch with Pablo Estrado, who has been with Meraki since January 2011, where he started as a Solution Architect and  is currently the Director of Marketing, to find out about the kind of projects they have been working on and their plans for Meraki.

Who Uses Meraki?

The benefits of a cloud-networking solution aren’t limited to a certain industry or line of business. We have customers in the large enterprise space, in colleges and universities, in retail, healthcare, manufacturing, construction, hospitality and tourism and in large event venues. Customers range in size from the small mom-and-pop coffee shop all the way up to a large enterprise with tens of thousands of employees.

What is Meraki / Cloud Networking

The Cisco Meraki solution is completely web-based so lean IT staff can reconfigure any of their equipment without even being onsite. Our cloud-managed edge and branch networking solutions simplify enterprise-class networks, and includes wireless, switching, security, and devices that are all centrally managed from the cloud.

Via this approach, Cisco Meraki gives network administrators complete visibility and control through a browser-based dashboard, without the cost and complexity of traditional architectures. Administrators are able to gain unmatched visibility into what is happening on their network, all through a single pane of glass that makes managing a network painless.

Why Embrace Cloud Technology?

Just give it a try! We offer three ways to try the solution for free. You can request eval gear, which allows you to try for free any Cisco Meraki product on your network. We provide the technical support to get you set up.

We believe that once you try our solutions, you’ll be amazed at the simplified management and increased visibility into your network activity.

You can also receive a free Meraki access point (AP) by attending a webinar, or you can test drive the Cisco Meraki cloud management platform directly from your browser.

Innovative Examples of Meraki?

Just this summer, the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix used Cisco Meraki gear to bring connectivity for journalists and photographers at the event. The network was built on the two floors of the historic, 107-year-old Casino Building on Belle Isle, which was dedicated to media personnel during the race weekend.

A simple design started with a 45Mb/s Internet connection with a backup DSL connection, feeding into a Meraki MX100 Security Appliance and then relayed out to an array of strategically placed switches and wireless access points.

Meraki cloud networking is the perfect solution for events like this one. In the case of the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix the network was put together in half a day by the networking team, who had never worked with the equipment before. Meraki’s excellent application and client visibility available in the dashboard allowed the team to manage the network effectively even during peak times.

Financial Benefits For SMEs?

Cisco Meraki solutions allow smaller IT shops to provide their business with a large-scale enterprise experience without the large enterprise price tag. In addition, due to cloud-networking’s easy management capabilities, a smaller IT shop is able to manage a network with less manpower, freeing up IT to focus less on “keeping the lights on” and more on creating innovative IT solutions for the business.

Plans for the future?

We’ve grown our product line quite a bit over the last few years, adding dozens of new switches, access points, and security appliances. We’ve always kept a close eye on the problems our customers face and how we can help them solve those issues.

One of our most popular features is something called the “make a wish button.” This is a place where customers can directly enter suggestions and feedback and about the Meraki product.

It’s available on every page of the web-based dashboard and sends feedback directly to the engineering and product teams. We’re continuing to invest in all our product lines and will use this feedback to help ensure our products meet customer needs.

Favourite Feature of Meraki?

I think the Meraki dashboard – the network management interface – is where Meraki really shows its value. The analytics and insights gained through the dashboard give network administrators real-time actionable data. The tight integration of the dashboard with high-performance hardware that simply works unlocks countless possibilities for administrators – it provides the key to innovation.

 

To find out how your industry peers are already using Meraki, and the benefits the solutions can deliver for your organisation, please watch this free webinar or email support@amsys.co.uk.

Preparing for iOS 8

On the 17 September, Apple is releasing iOS 8 to the masses. Here are a few suggestions on making this experience as easy and trouble free as possible.

Device Compatibility

iOS 8 is compatible with the iPhone 4s and the iPad 2 onwards. As with previous systems, if  your device is the oldest one on the list, so in the case of the iPhone 4S, you may want to hold off upgrading until you have heard from other people about performance and reliability on these devices.

iOS8-Compatability

Free Space

Checking the amount of free space available is really recommended. Last year when iOS 7 was shipped the space requirements where approx 730MB to download the install image direct to the device and then approx 3.1GB to install the update. If you are no where near this, then it might be time well spent removing those apps you never use. You can reduce the amount of space required by installing the update via iTunes on your computer rather than over the air direct to the device. If you are really short of space, then removing your music or photos temporarily maybe of some help.

Backup

Updating iOS has always been very reliable, but there are bound to be a few people out the millions who upgrade who run across issues. So get a backup in before you upgrade. Backing up is easy and there are no excuses. You can either backup to iCloud, assuming you have enough space, or backup via iTunes on your computer. Apple have a nice tech article here on how to backup.

Updates

Check all your apps are up to date. This goes for the version of iOS 7 you are running and also your apps.

Assuming you have done all this, get ready to enjoy iOS 8.

My top iPhone 6 and iOS 8 features

Apple announced their next generation of smartphones this week, the iPhone 6 and the massive iPhone 6 Plus!.

Even better, we can pre-order these as of today, and they will be available along with the new iOS 8 from next week!

Let’s get bigger with 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch Retina HD phones shall we?! However, how cool is this; despite the display now being bigger, the phones are now much THINNER!

So, as today is pre-order day for the new iPhones, I thought I’d mention what I think I’d find useful with the new iPhone and iOS.

Nope, it’s not necessarily the new Retina HD display, nor is it a new, faster A8 chip, the M8 motion coprocessor, better power efficiency, advanced iSight and FaceTime HD cameras, ultrafast wireless technology or even Apple Pay. Although I am looking forward to these!

For me, I really like the idea of the new ‘Landscape view’ on the iPhone 6 Plus.

The larger display means that apps can offer a more productive landscape (horizontal) view, and Apple have already kicked this off with some of the built-in apps in iOS 8 such as Mail and Calendar:

iphone 6 landscape view

This new iPad-style two-pane landscape mode displays much more content on the screen than with the previous iPhones, and it also offers a ‘horizontal’ homepage mode! So the Home screen can now display app icons in landscape!

I’m forever rotating my iPhone 5 back and forth between portrait and landscape mode as both have something I want but not everything in one orientation!

The other feature I’m liking is ‘Reachability’.

This new ‘one-handed mode’ means you can Double tap the Home button which shifts the entire screen down closer to your thumb.

Also, the Sleep/Wake button is now on the right-hand side instead of the top for easier access. The amount of times I have to use two hands even on my iPhone 5 is just too much effort!

iphone 6 reachability

Other large smartphones offer similar features which scale the screen to one side or to a corner to make using one hand easier, but after using those I think I’d prefer Apple’s ‘shift’ technique.

Note: This feature requires you to just DOUBLE TAP the home button/Touch ID Sensor, NOT DOUBLE PRESS. Double pressing the Home Button continues to offer the ‘multitasking’ feature to show all open apps.

So, what about iOS 8?  Well, there’s a host of new and improved things here too. Like new Spotlight, Messages and Photos features, as well as completely new features such as a Health app, iCloud Family Sharing and iCloud Drive.

Plus, hello new 128GB model! :)

Well, my colleague Richard has already blogged about how excited he is with iOS 8 in his blog ‘iOS 8: Adds new enterprise features ‘iOS 8 Enterprise features’.

For me, certainly having the AirDrop function between iOS & OS X, once iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite are available, will be a huge benefit.

But, I’m liking the new QuickType keyboard.

Now, your iPhone will help you finish a text or email based on your past conversations and writing styles and offer you choices of words or phrases it thinks you might type next! Magic!

ios quicktype

iOS 8 even knows that someone has asked you a question in a message conversation and will offer choices like ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, or pick out answers from the question itself as shown below:

ios 8 quicktype features

This will come in very handy when I’m on the train to and from work and in a rush to reply to emails and texts before I get to that tunnel that will kill my network connection!

I’m also looking forward to using the Continuity features.

Again, something that will become really useful once iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite are available. The new ‘Handoff’ feature will allow you to start writing an email on your iPhone and then carry off where you left off when you switch on your Mac. All without having to save the email as a draft first! Obviously linked to iCloud, but this will mean seamless usage of Mac devices since let’s face it, you never can stop at just owning one Apple device!

continuity ios 8 yosemite

Well, handy for me! I’m always starting emails on my iPhone whilst on the train and then wanting to finish them off when I get to the office.

Guess what? You can even answer a phone call from your Mac if your iPhone is in the next room! As long as the two devices are on the same Wi-Fi network, your Mac can answer the call for you whilst your iPhone is on charge in the next room! Very cool.

Well, there’s just my thoughts, trying to contain my excitement until I get my hands on the new iPhone and iOS next week!

Look out for iOS 8 and iPhone support training courses and iOS 8 Developer courses coming your way soon.

And if your company is thinking about implementing these new delights, let our Amsys Professional Services team ease the transition by assisting you or setting them up for you with a complete design, plan and installation of your new iOS solution!

Right. I’ve wasted too much time talking about it, I’m off to place my order and I’ll see you on the other side, bye bye iPhone 5 and iOS 7, you served me well!

iCloud email notifications

In keeping with Apple’s commitment to make iCloud more secure, Apple have just added a new level of security to iCloud.

You are now sent an email when someone logs into www.icloud.com with your account credentials. The email gives you the option to ignore it, if it was you who logged in, or the option to reset your password.

The only slight glitch seems to be with the date and time stamp for when this event happened, which currently is set to PDT.

This is a nice addition.

Example email:

icloud-login-email

Munki: Munki Report PHP Client Installation and Tour

Hey Guys. munki guide

I hope you liked my blog on getting your Munki Report PHP server running. I know I like using that Munki logo face again!

In this post, I aim to show you how to get your clients hooked up into the Report system and give you a mini tour of the web interface

Additional information can be found on the Munki Report PHP site.

Guide

You have your Mac Server installed and configured with 10.9.2 and Server app 3.1.1. This has both forward and reverse lookups configured and working fine.

I will also assume that you have already followed all the steps in the original Munki guide parts 1 to 5, e.g. you have a fully working Munki Repo Server, Administration Server and Client. You also have followed the previous Munki Report PHP server and have a running ‘Report server.

Grabbing the enrollment file and loading it into Munki.

1. Open up terminal and enter the following command. Replace “127.0.0.1” with the DNS name that your clients will use to submit reports.

open terminal

For example, if my server was at “munki.amsys.co.uk” I would use the following command:

curl –s http://munki.amsys.co.uk/index.php?/install/plist –o MunkiReport.plist

2. This will contact the Munki Report PHP server and grab a preference (plist) file to add into Munki and to enrol the clients.

3. Next, enter “open .” and press return. This will open the folder that the terminal window is currently in. This will contain a file called ‘MunkiReport.plist’. This is the file we need to add into your Munki Repo.

munki report plist

4. Copy this file into your Munki Repo under the “pkgsinfo” directory.

pkgs info

5. Finally, make Munki run a ‘Make Catalogs’ either through the ‘Make’ button in the Munki Admin application or by running the below command in terminal:

/usr/local/munki/makecatalogs

6. This will load the plist file as a ‘package’ into Munki. Use your normal methods to add this to your Catalogs and Manifests. Once complete, your clients will automatically install and start reporting in to your server!

Brief Tour of Munki Report PHP

Once you’ve got Munki Report PHP up and running (and a few clients reporting in), fire up the website and login. You’ll be presented with the main Dashboard:

main munki dashboard

Click on “Reports” then “Hardware” to see a summary of the Macs reporting into your server.

munki hardware reports

Click on the Name to be shown a much more detailed overview of the device.

detailed munki report

On the main page you’ll see the hardware specs and machine information in the top section…

hardware specs in munki

And the lower half will show the version of Munki tools installed, the last checks, and the status’ of any Managed Installs.

As expected, the Apple Software and Third party tabs will give you information on Apple Installed and ‘other’ installed applications.

installed apple apps in munki

The Inventory items tab shows all of the applications and binaries that Munki collects, along with their version numbers.

inventory of items in munki

And now, some of the cooler bits, The Network interfaces and Directory Services tabs show all of the devices interfaces, MAC addresses and IP details.

ethernet and wifi services view

With the last two tabs showing the Directory Services connections (if any) and FileVault 2 details (but no recovery keys!).

view directory services in munki

view file vault in munki

Summary

Well there you go. Munki Report PHP fully configured and clients reporting in, and another great tool to add to your Mac Administration / Munki toolkit.

Any hints, tips or opinions? Let us know in the comments below and I’ll try to respond to as many as I can.

September’s London Apple Admin meet up

Hey everyone! Last night was the first large meet up of the London Apple Admins. The event, organised by Ben Toms and Graham Gilbert, with the event sponsored by Amsys, managed to ‘sell out’ of all 60 (free) tickets easily!

In a marked changed from both Amsys and London Apple Admin meet ups previously, the evening was spent following a detailed agenda including eight 10 minute presentations from a number of the London Mac Admins (including yours truly) as well as JAMF, Airwatch and macbrained.

The atmosphere was very relaxed (possibly as alcohol was available) but with a level of formality that encouraged mingling and discussions with new and regular attendees alike.

All in all, it was a great night, highly enjoyable and very friendly.

I’d like to convey a large amount of thanks to Ben Toms and Graham Gilbert for going to trouble of organising and promoting the event (as well as motivating the speakers!) and to our own Charley Allen for arranging the venue and promoting the event from the Amsys side of things.

Keep an eye / bookmark / favourite on the website for future meet ups and please do feel free to attend. We don’t bite!

My Presentation Notes

Ben Toms kindly roped me into a ten minute presentation for the meet up (I’m not bitter, honest :P) and I opted for Time Management.

Around the same time I was asked to do a presentation, I had recently finished watching Vanessa White’s “Load Balancing for Humans” video, and was halfway through the “Time Management for System Administrators” book. To be honest, going by the other speakers (either from meeting them, or the companies they work for) I felt I couldn’t ‘out-geek’ them, so I went for something different!

I’ve detailed the links and materials I mentioned in my talk below. I hope some of you will find them helpful!

Links

Summary

Again, I’d like to thank Ben, Graham and Charley for organising an amazing event and for giving me ten minutes to ramble on. I’d also like to thank everyone who attended and I look forward to the next one!

iCloud Security Review

You may have seen in the press over the last couple of days that a large collection of explicit celebrity photos were released. It’s looking like the vast majority came from hacked iCloud accounts, specifically via Find My iPhone service.

From reports, the hackers used a brute force password tool. The tool would target an iCloud account ID and would run through a list of 500 of the most commonly used passwords that complied with Apples’ password policies. At the time, Apple did not throttle or lock out the attempts after a certain number of guesses within a given time.  So the hackers would target each account, try each of the passwords, and then move on to the next account. It’s surprising how may accounts you can get through using automated tools.

Since the breach, Apple has now changed things  and will now lock out the account after 5 attempts.

However even though this exploit has been closed, it’s always best to incorporate best practices for your passwords. Even though this document is targeted towards iCloud, a lot of this information you can re-use for other type of accounts.

Best Practices

  • First, although it’s tempting to use the same password across different services such as iCloud or Facebook. Don’t do this. Use separate, unique passwords for each service. That way if one account gets compromised, the other accounts are safe.
  • Use strong passwords. So don’t have passwords that include guessable items such as words found in a dictionary, proper nouns, etc. Don’t create a password based on personal information, such as a birthday. The longer the password, the better.Always use a mixture of characters including upper case and lower case letters. Also include special characters such as £, ? or %. Creating passwords can be a pain. In OS X, you can use the Keychain Access password assistant to create a secure password for you.

 

keychain-password

 

  • Once you start using more complex passwords they can become a pain to re-enter each time. I use a tool called 1Password that I use to manage all my passwords. They have OS X and iOS versions and is well worth the investment.
  • Quite often a service, such as iCloud, will add an additional security  measure, and  prompt you to select a number of security questions for which you provide the answers. In the event of you being locked out of the account, they will use these questions to verify who you are.Some of the questions relate to information that is easily found such as your mother’s maiden name.I tend to use random answers for these questions, to make them unguessable by other people. So for my mother’s maiden name I could use ‘London”. Again I use 1Password to record these answers.
  • Also, Apple offers two-factor authentication. By enabling two-step verification, whenever you attempt to log in on a new device with your Apple ID, you will be asked to enter a 4-digit verification code.This code will be sent to a device that you have registered as a trusted device, such as your iPhone, via the Find My iPhone notification or SMS.Apple has some great instructions on how to set this up which can found here.

I hope this is useful and if you have any concerns feel free to contact us at support@amsys.co.uk

Amsys Training partner with Belgium’s, The Catena Company

Earlier this month we partnered with The Catena Company, to license our custom training courses to the Belgium training market. The Catena company has been a trusted Apple Training Partner for quite some time and have a long-standing relationship with Apple.

In today’s blog, Alex Hawes, our Managing Director and Eddy Smets, Catena’s CEO, discuss their recent collaboration and the future of the European Apple Training Market.

eddysmetsThe Catena Company

The Company’s founders were pioneers in the Belgian market, spearheading the commercial expansion of official Apple Training over a decade ago. But even before that official foray into the market from Apple, Catena were offering training and education to IT professionals who were wanting to build Apple expertise.

Eddy Smets from the Catena Company explains:

“By establishing an ‘Apple Authorized Training Center’ channel, Apple added quality control, supervision and ultimately, consistency to the process.

Since that time, the Apple training marketplace has undergone a real transformation in terms of growth. If I recall correctly, back in 2003 there were only six training partners for the whole of Europe. Over the intervening years, the business has grown immensely and there are now a few hundred partners worldwide, and of course much of that expansion has been in Europe.

During that time, we met Alex Hawes from Amsys, they being an Apple Training Partner from the very early days of Apple expanding its training and support service network.”

Amsys content development in the UK

Amsys logoIn addition to being a Training Partner, Amsys is also an Apple Authorised Service Provider. They are the biggest European Training Partner, training in excess of 1500 students a year on a range of Apple technology courses.

“Market needs, Apple growth, and the demand for products and services, have been catalysts for exponential growth in the training business.” states Alex Hawes.

“This is further supported by increased uniformity in training content, a specific certification roadmap, and a worldwide consumer market.”

Eddy Smets continues: “Still there was an ever-present demand for derivative or more specialised training, beyond the generic Apple Authorised offering. As Apple consultants, we are in touch with the daily reality of what people are doing, so we get a good feel for the needs and wishes of businesses.”

Alex, experienced the same issues in the UK: “Our demographic market is larger than in Belgium. This allowed us to develop and commercialise proprietary training programs. Our instructors work together on our course content and structure, striving to achieve the same quality in our own proprietary programs, as in the Apple endorsed ones.

So whilst Apple focuses on generic courses, we can also offer more specialised instruction that caters for the needs of the technicians who are deploying these technologies.”

Amongst other topics, this led to courses for specialists deploying Apple OS X devices in Enterprise Networks, or for those responsible for integrating Apple OS X devices with Directory Services.

Catering for specialists trained on Windows is another popular avenue of training. This involves supporting the integration of Mac devices with Windows machines, and vice-versa, in configuring Windows servers for Mac clients.

Joining for forces to create a broad, top quality offering:catena-logo

“We strive to offer the best, but it isn’t always easy, – or indeed smart – for a business to try to achieve things in isolation.” Explains Eddy Smets. “In the past we provided custom training, coaching and advice. But in spite of our considerable experience in the field, much of the demand in Belgium is still not quite large enough to make the development of our own content an economical proposition.

That said, with iOS, we see a new market opening up, with its own specific needs in regard to development and deployment. So, being the proactive Apple consultants and trainers that we are, we are keen to be once again at the forefront in addressing these new demands. Teaming up with Amsys has facilitated our desire to lead from the front, and it’s a union which benefits Amsys as much as it does Catena.”

Winners

AlexHawes“Precisely!”

Alex Hawes adds. “We carry the investment for the marketplace, developing programs which allow other training centres to license this content from us. It’s a situation which makes economic sense for everyone involved; we are as happy to be in a position to offer our courses in Belgium through The Catena Company, as I’m sure they are in being able to present such courses.

And I’m further sure that deploying our training and content abroad in a larger market can only serve to improve the quality of content and trainers alike. Moreover – and as Eddy mentioned – the experience and feedback gathered by the Catena Company trainers presents us with invaluable ‘boots on the ground’ knowledge of a market they know well, which assists in the further development of training content.”

All in all it’s a win-win situation, a symbiotic relationship which can only cement continued improvement. But the biggest winner of all is the trainee of course, as a larger array of what is already high-quality training, becomes ever-more finely attuned to the needs of those at the forefront of IT in Europe.

 

Locking down Firefox with CCK 2

Hello again. Yes it’s another Firefox lockdown blog, and a second CCK one, but I have good reasons! I promise!

Firstly, Firefox has changed a little from version 24 to the (at time of writing) current version 30. Secondly, the excellent Mike Kaply has released a ‘new-proved’ (that’s new and improved) CCK, version 2, which offers a better system to maintain the lockdowns through Firefox updates.

Previously, you’d have to manually modify each newly updated Firefox bundle to keep your restrictions in place. With the new method, you can re-push / deploy the specific settings files, back into the newly updated (or replaced) application bundle.

I’d also like to take this chance to apologise to Mike for not having a chance to play and write this up sooner. CCK 2 was released back in November 2013.

One final thing…. I apologise in advance for the length of this post!

Right, let’s get to it.

Introduction

Firefox Version:  30.0.0

CCK Version:  2.0.4

This blog post is split into four main sections:

  1. Obtaining and installing the CCK Wizard
  2. Configuring a CCK lock-down ‘auto-config’ package
  3. Installing the package into your Firefox bundle
  4. Using the new package when updating Firefox.

I suggest you use a new user account that hasn’t launched Firefox of any version to build your deployment copy.

Phase 1: Obtaining and installing the CCK Wizard

1. Navigate to the Firefox website and download the latest copy of Firefox.
2. Drag your new copy of Firefox to the desktop so you can work on it.
3. Launch Firefox and dismiss all of the first launch popups and messages.
4. Once you have got your copy of Firefox fully open, launch the Add-on manager by going to the “Tools” menu item, then “Add-ons”.

 

lockdown firefox cc2

5. In the “Search all add-ons” box, type in “cck” and hit return.

 
search add ons firefox

 
6.This should show the 2 CCK Wizard add-on installers. Click “Install” on the CCK Wizard 2.0.4 and once complete, close this tab.

 
cck 2 wizard
about addons cck2

 
7. Once Firefox has installed the plugin, you should see the below screen. This means that the CCK Wizard add-on is installed. This completes Phase 1.

 

thanks for installing cck2

 

Phase 2: Configuring a CCK lock-down ‘auto-config’ package

8. As directed by the ‘Thanks for installing…’ screen, click the new icon in the top right corner.

 

configuring cck lockdown firefox

 

9. This will launch the CCK Wizard 2 editor. Click “New” to create a new configuration. You can import previous CCK Wizard creations but sometimes it’s good to start from scratch to clear out the fluff.

 

launch cck wizard 2

 

10. Enter a name and a unique identifier for your lockdown profile. For this example, I have used “Amsys-Example-Lockdown-2014” and “amsys-cck-2@extensions.amsys.co.uk”. Click “OK”.

 

unique identifier

11. The entire plugin will now move to a new screen, with the sections on the left and the settings on the right. On the “About” page, set a description and give the configuration a version number. Use the “Choose…” option to select the location that the work in progress files will be stored. In this example I have used the desktop of my test user account. Once complete, Click “Next”.
Please Note: You can also navigate directly to each section using the titles in the left hand window.

 

cck example lockdown

 

12. The next section is “Web Pages”. This will allow you to set a homepage, lock the homepage, set a ‘new user’ welcome page and not to display it, and finally set a ‘Firefox has been upgraded’ page and not to display it. In my default ‘education lockdown’ I will set the Homepage, tick the ‘lock down’ box, leave the Welcome and Upgrade page URLs blank, but tick both “Do not display…” options. Once complete, click “Next”.

 

upgrade url page blank

 

13. Next is the “User Interface”, providing general options for the UI of the browser. Typically, I would only select / tick the “Remove the Web Developer menu”, “Remote the ‘Set As Desktop Background’ menuitem” and “Remove the ‘Restart with Add-ons disabled’ menuitem” options. The last option isn’t really that relevant with the new UI style of Firefox v30. Once complete, click “Next”.

 

cck user interface

 

14. The next section is “Help Menu” and allows you to modify some aspects of the Help system. Generally speaking, it’s not something I make use of but feel free to play (and test)! Click “Next”.

15. This section is the “Hidden UI” section. It allows you to hide whole sections of the Firefox UI. Again, generally speaking, it’s not something I make use of, but might be ideal for you. Once complete, Click “Next”.

16. The next section “Permissions” allows you to set default site preferences such as block/allow Popups, Installs, Cookies and Plugins. For this example I have used a (hopefully) fake site called “http://www.popsite.com” and blocked all. Clicking the “Add…” option, filling in the boxes, and then clicking “OK” added this. Repeat as required. Click “Next” once you’re done.

cck wizard permissions

cck wizard permissions 2

 

17. The “Add-ons” page. You can use the main section to load in the pre-downloaded extension files to include. Typically, I’d rarely use this feature but I heavily use the lower section. This allows the disabling of “Discovering Add-ons in the Add-ons Manager”, the Add-ons manager itself and the installing of Add-ons. I typically will tick all three. Click “Next”.

cck adds ons

 

18. “Search Engines”. As the name suggests, this allows you to customise the Search Engines that Firefox uses. By default Firefox uses Google so typically, I’ll leave this as is. Click “Next”.

 

cck wizard search engines

 

19. “Plugins”, the section for your web plugins such as Flash, Java, Adobe Reader etc. Generally, I’d be deploying Flash and Java to the system as standard I don’t typically use this section. Click “Next”.

20. “Bookmarks”. This section can be used to set some options relating to the bookmark items and view settings. I typically select all three options (“Display the Bookmarks toolbar by default”, “Remove Smart Bookmarks…” and “Remove Default Bookmarks…”). Click “Next”.

 

cck wizard bookmarks

 

21. “Toolbar” and “Menu”. These two sections allow you to add bookmarks, separators and folders to the bookmarks toolbar and menu item respectively. Added these is simple a case of clicking the relevant “Add [XXXX]…” button and filling in the popup box. Once complete, click “Next” on each section.

cck wizard toolbar menu

 

22. “Preferences”. This section is very similar to the one in CCK 1.x. Again, these are the same options available in the about:config menu and also very similar to those we’ve added in my previous Firefox deployment blogs.

23. To add a preference, click the “Add…” option.

 

cck wizard  preferences

 

24. In the “Preference Name” box, start typing the preference you want to set. The CCK will try and offer the preferences you are looking for. Once you find the one you want, click it.

 

cck browser shell

 

25. In the lower box, select the value you want. Click “OK”. Previously, this is also where you’d set to either ‘lock’ the preference (stopping it from being changed) or just to set it (as an initial setting, but changeable by each user).
cck wizard default browser

 

26. Once you’ve clicked “OK” you will be taken back to the previous page and shown the preference you have set. Consult my last blog for my personal favourites. To enable the ‘lock’ setting on the preference, set the preference, right click it and select “Lock”.

cck 2 lockdown firefox

 

27. The final option here is a tick box to block access to the “about:config” page of Firefox. This is a local page displaying all of the set and possible options for Firefox. Typically I would have this selected. Click “Next”.

 

cck wizard prevent access config wizard

 

28. “General”. This section provides you with three tick boxes that do, like much in the CCK, exactly as they say. I will usually set the middle option, “Don’t check if Firefox is the default browser at startup”. Click “Next”.

 

cck wizard general

 

29. “Privacy”. This section allows you to disable private browsing and to not remember search and form history. I tick the “Disable Private Browsing” option usually. Click “Next”.

 

cck wizard privacy

 

30. “Security”. This gives you the option to not remember passwords and to disable the creation of a master password to encrypt the stored passwords. This might be a good option for Kiosk style Macs but I don’t normally require this setting. Click “Next”.

31. “Sync”. This single tick box allows the Firefox Sync feature to be turned off. Generally I tick this option. Click “Next”.

 

cck wizard sync

 

32. “Data Choices”. This section provides three options to “Disable the crash reporter”, “Disable telemetry” and “Disable Firefox Health Report upload”. I would normally tick all three options to reduce end user popups and undesirably behaviour. Click “Next”.

 

cck wizard data choices

 

33. “Update”. This section has the sole option of disabling Firefox Updates. In a controlled environment I would always select this option to allow the site administrators to control the version of Firefox available to end-users. Click “Next”.

 

cck wizard update

 

34. “Windows Registry”. This section allows the adding of entries to the Windows Registry relating to Firefox. Being a Mac tech, I skip this section. Click “Next”.

35. “Certificates”. This section has three tabs; “Authorities”, “Servers” and “Overrides”. The first tab allows you to add CA certificates directly into the Firefox application. The second tab allows you to add individual server certificates and the Overrides section controls which domains are allowed to provide self signed certificates. I typically push out certificates using packages or MDM profiles as this will add them to the System Keychain and make them accessible to all applications, therefore I don’t make use of this section personally. Click “Next”.

36. “Network”. This section has two options; a drop down box to pick the setting and a tick box to stop users changing it. The default for Firefox is to use the System Proxy settings, which is normally the best option. I tend to forcibly set this and use the tick box to stop this being changed. Click “Next”.

 

cck wizard use proxy settings

 

37. “Miscellaneous”. This is where the ‘everything else’ settings live. I advise to certainly tick the first three options as these minimise the pop ups and stop users resetting Firefox. Click “Next”.

 

cck wizard miscellaneous

 

38. “AutoConfig Only”. As the name implies, this section only works for those of us that are going to deploy the setup using the “AutoConfig” method described in this blog. Those who want to use the extension method (as described previously but for CCK 1.x) should skip these two steps.

39. This section allows you to disable “Safe Mode”, to prevent the migration of Profiles and to set some JavaScript code to run before and after the CCK2 settings. The only option I’ve actively set and used is the “Don’t Migrate Profiles” option that I understand blocks the use of existing Firefox settings (as stored in ~/Library/Application Support/Mozilla). Click “Next”.

 

dont migrate profiles

 

40. “Extension Only”. Same as above, only fill in this section if you are going to use the Extension method to apply the configuration

41. “Finish”. The last section! If you want to use the Extension method, click “Create an Extension” and save the result to your desktop. Then use my previous blog, section 3, to deploy this. If you want to use the new “AutoConfig” method, then click “Use Auto Extension method to apply the configuration.

42. This completes the settings configuration.

Phase 3: Installing the package into your Firefox bundle

43. The next steps involving getting the new settings into the Firefox bundle itself. Navigate to the location you saved your final file in. This should end with the extension .zip

44. Double click this file to unzip the contents.

 

install package into your Firefox bundle

 

45. We need to get these files and folder into the Firefox Application, into “./Firefox.app/Contents/MacOS” but without replacing the folders already in place!

46. Keep the autoconfig window open and to one side. Go back to your build version of Firefox, right click and select “Show Package Contents”.

 

install firefox package contents

 

47. Navigate to the “Contents” > “MacOS” folder within this bundle. This area will be familiar to those who’ve followed my many previous posts about Firefox deployment configuration.

 

navigate to contents

 

48. Copy the “distribution” folder, from your autoconfig folder into this location.

./autoconfig/distribution	 ->	./Firefox.app/Contents/MacOS/

copy distribution folder firefox

 

49. Within your Firefox.app folder structure, open up the “browser” folder (“./Firefox.app/Contents/MacOS/browser”) and open up the “browser” folder in your ‘autoconfig’ folder (“./autoconfig/browser”).

50. Copy the contents of the autoconfig folder into the Firefox “browser” folder.

./autoconfig/browser/*	 ->	./Firefox.app/Contents/MacOS/browser/

copy contents firefox folder

 

51. Last one! Within your Firefox.app folder structure, open up the “defaults” then “pref” folder (“./Firefox.app/Contents/MacOS/defaults/pref”) and open up the “defaults” then “pref” folder in your

‘autoconfig’ folder (“./autoconfig/defaults/pref”).

52. Copy the contents of the pref folder into the Firefox “pref” folder.

./autoconfig/defaults/pref/*	 ->	./Firefox.app/Contents/MacOS/defaults/pref/

copy pref contents folder

 

53. Firefox should now have its tweaks complete and stored within its application bundle. When a new user launches Firefox, it will silently use the lock-down configuration and apply the settings. To test I would recommend copying the final product into the Applications folder, then creating and using a new User account, verifying the behaviour is as expected. Also remember, to ‘reset’ a user to continually test the use of Firefox as a new user, just remove these two directories:

~/Library/Application\ Support/Mozilla
~/Library/Application\ Support/Firefox

Phase 4: Using the new package when updating Firefox

Wow, sorry about the length of that. Mike’s done a great job of splitting up the sections neatly; it just doesn’t make for an easy blog!

As promised, let’s have a brief chat about why I would recommend this change. The current easiest (and arguably most popular) method for updating Firefox is to push out the new .app bundle. I can’t disagree with this as it also ensures that any issue within the Application bundle are fixed when the whole lot is replaced. However, this causes the problem that for each new version, you need to re-apply your configurations inside the application before you can push it out.

With the new method, you can simple package those files we copied (steps 48, 50 and 52) in their final locations. With this new package, you can simply ensure to redeploy this after every Firefox update to ensure that your restrictions are applied.

Running Munki? Even easier! Add this package into your installs array and add the files into the pkgsinfo file’s installs array and watch, as Munki will automatically fix Firefox, each time it’s updated.

Running Casper? A little trickier but how about using a customer Extension Attribute that checks for the existence of these files, and if not present, add the Macs to a Smart group and use a scoped policy to reinstall them.

Summary

Thanks for sticking it out this far and apologies again for the long post. Hopefully that will help some of you with a better method, or even just an (another) alternative method of configuring Firefox for your deployments.

As always, if you have any questions, queries or comments, let us know below and I’ll try to respond to and delve into as many as I can.

Disclaimer:

While the author has taken care to provide our readers with accurate information, please use your discretion before acting upon information based on the blog post. Amsys will not compensate you in any way whatsoever if you ever happen to suffer a loss/inconvenience/damage because of/while making use of information in this blog.

The best way to really learn something is to actually do it

Philip Hodder from Encodis Consulting, first embarked on his app development journey with Amsys last year, by taking our 5 day iOS app development course, to turn an idea that he had been exploring into an app. The app is called “RTQ” and was recently accepted onto the App Store.

Congratulations Philip!

We got in touch with Philip to find out why he created his app “RTQ,” what the app does, and how Amsys Training helped him in achieving his app development goals.

Why did you attend our iOS App Development course?

I’ve found that the best way to really learn something is to actually do it! For iOS programming this obviously meant starting with an idea and ending up with a published app on the App Store.

Fortunately I’d been kicking the idea for the app around for a while, so after the course I could get stuck in straight away.

Why did you create the App?

There are a number of “daily quote” apps in the App Store, but these tend to be focused on one specific subject (Shakespeare, for example, or a particular TV show) – there didn’t seem to be many that allowed you to make up your own lists.

What functionality/features are included within the App?

In essence the app (called RTQ) is quite simple.

Imagine you have a list of things, arranged as a simple table. This table could contain anything:

- Different routes to run as part of a workout.
- Quotes from your favourite films.
- A list of books to read.

And so on.

You can select a table within the app and it will show a random row (or entry) from it. RTQ is short for “Random Tables and Quotes,”, which is what the app does!

Of course, there is a lot more functionality in there if you need it:

- Have several tables in the same “table set.”
- Adjust the formatting (font, colours and so on.)
- Add and edit tables and table entries within the app.
- Tables can be filtered by categories and sorted and so on.

There’s also a feature to import (from an email attachment, say, or from Dropbox) a text file containing a definition of a table set. This is useful for tables with a large number of entries.

How can the App be used?

Anyway you like! One of my primary target audiences for this app is the table top role playing game community. These games use lots of tables, and the app has lots of features to support quite complex tables.

How did Amsys training help you to create the App?

iOS programming has quite a steep learning curve – there’s a lot to learn about the programming language itself (Objective-C) and the environment you develop it in (XCode). The Amsys course was incredibly useful in getting up that curve!

Although there are a lot of iOS programming resources on the Internet nothing beats being able to ask someone how something works – or why something isn’t working! – right there and then. This gave me a solid grounding in the basics and sped things up considerably.

Are you planning on developing any more Apps in the future?

Definitely! Version 1.1 of RTQ is coming soon, although that’s more of a stability update. V1.2 will incorporate social media – so you can post a favourite quote on Facebook, for example.

The next versions will incorporate notifications – iOS 8 will probably have been released by then, and I’m keen to see what some of its new features can do in that area.

I’m also exploring an idea for another app with a colleague. This has the potential to be of interest to a range of users – from individual “hobbyists” all the way up to quite large companies. From a technical perspective, this will mean getting to grips with Core Data and iCloud, which I’m quite looking forward to!

RTQ edit table set RTQ table sets

RTQ-formatting RTQ-castle-names

 

We wish Philip lots of luck with his new app, and hope that the App receives plenty of downloads. We have thought of some great ways that this app can be used, for example, creating a list to generate ideas for what to cook for dinner tonight!

You can download “RTQ” for 69p from the APP Store today.

If you would like to start your app development journey with Amsys, please call us on 0208 645 5806, or check out our range of iOS app development courses for beginner and advanced developers.

Writing data into existing home folders as part of an installation package

I have been in a few scenarios where we need to deploy a package and put a file into the home folder of each user on the target system. Of course if we are using Casper we can just create a DMG package and use the “fill existing users” option. The below script gives you a way of doing this if you don’t have Casper deploying the package.

We start off by deploying the app / software via the package as normal. In this example we put the file we want to end up in the users home folders in /tmp. We then use a while loop to copy the file into each users home folder (excluding the Shared and Guest directories):

#!/bin/sh
 
fileName="/tmp/yourfilename"
     # Sets the file name as a variable
 
counter=`ls /Users | grep -v Shared | grep -v Guest | grep -v .localized | grep -v .DS_Store | grep -c "[A-z 0-9]"`
     # Outputs the number of folders in the /Users directory, excluding the Shared & Guest directories
 
# Loop start
 
     while [ $counter -ne 0 ]
          do
               targetFolder=`ls /Users | grep -v Shared | grep -v Guest | grep -v .localized | grep -v .DS_Store | grep "[A-z 0-9]" | head -$counter | tail -1`
                    # Gets the target folder name (there’s probably a better way to do this but it works!)
 
               cp $fileName /Users/$targetFolder/Desktop/
                    # Copies the file into place
 
               chown $targetFolder /Users/$targetFolder/Library/Preferences/ByHost/com.apple.QuickTime.$uuid.plist
                    # Set the correct owner on the file
 
               counter=$(( $counter - 1 ))
                    # Reduces the counter by 1
     done
 
exit 0

Plymouth University – The results are in!

amsys plymouth university

Late last year we embarked on a journey with Plymouth University to bring an innovative and collaborative Apple Support service to the University’s Mac and iOS devices for staff and students.

As we near the anniversary we wanted to find out just what our users thought of the service. After all, it’s no good just thinking you have delivered an exceptional project, without first finding out whether the service really meets the expectations from your client and their users.

So, we decided to undertake an anonymous survey of the 300+ users of the service and “The CORE” in order to understand their views and experiences of the service. The questions sought to discover opinions and feedback on all manners of the service, including the Amsys team that man the service and views on the response times and fix-rates.

We have been extremely impressed by the results and very proud of our teams who have delivered such a fantastic service to our client. The results have demonstrated an average score of 96% across the board and comments such as “It is extremely helpful to have such resource in campus, it saved me time and further aggravation to have someone available so quickly and near my office.” and “Following the one visit, I have been recommending Amsys to my colleagues.” Well-done team!

When you couple this with our 100% achievement of our Service Level Agreements since they were introduced, the survey results conclude that we are delivering a high-quality service, in tune with the user’s requirements.

The full survey results are detailed below.

Delivery Customer Satisfaction Survey            

Average %
How satisfied are you overall with our customer support? 4.71 94%
How satisfied were you with how the Amsys support staff resolved your recent problem? 4.76 95%

Please rate your Amsys Technician on the following attributes
Responsiveness 4.85 97%
Professionalism 4.83 97%
Politeness 4.88 98%
Knowledge of the problem 4.80 96%
Manner of handling follow up questions 4.73 95%

Please indicate your level of satisfaction with the following attributed of our service
Delivery of service 4.79 96%
Methods of communication 4.81 96%
Time taken before speaking to a technician 4.86 97%
Time taken before your issue was resolved 4.81 96%

Total Average

4.81

96%

 
If you want to learn more about the solution Amsys delivered and the business and technical issues the University faced then download our free Apple in Education webinar, hosted in conjunction with Plymouth University.

________

To find out how we can help you integrate an Apple Support Service at your school or university please contact us today, email support@amsys.co.uk or call 0208 660 9999.

London Apple Admins debut event sponsored by Amsys

London Apple Admins has been founded by London based system admins, Ben Toms and Graham Gilbert. If you’re a regular twitter user, you may already be following these two popular tweeters!

Earlier on this year, Ben got in touch with us to see whether we could help them get their new event idea off of the ground, following the success of our own MMU events.

We agreed, and we are pleased to announce that the very first London Apple Admin “meet” will take place early next month at the Red Herring pub, in St Paul’s, London.

Here is a rough agenda to give you guideline on what to expect on the night. As you can see, there are already a number of confirmed speakers, however there are some spots still available.

So if you fancy sharing or demonstrating an idea, tool or scenario, then please get touch and get involved!

  • 19:00-19:15 – Arrivals
  • 19:15-19:25 – Ben Toms aka macmule (Pentland Brands Plc)
  • 19:25-19:35 – Graham Gilbert (Pebble.it)
  • 19:45-19:55 – Richard Purves (University of the Arts London)
  • 19:55-20:05 – Dan Mintz (JAMF Software)
  • 20:05-20:15 – Darren Wallace (Amsys)
  • 20:15-20:25 – Dana Campbell (macbrained)
  • 21:25-23:00 – Eat, Drink & Discuss

This  event, as with future events to come, entry will be free. However, you must register beforehand as there is limited capacity, so please get your tickets now.

Gatekeeper changes coming

Gatekeeper was introduced in Mountain Lion and OS X Lion v10.7.5. It’s used to help protect your Mac from malware and misbehaving apps downloaded from the Internet.

The safest and most reliable place to download and install apps is via the Mac App Store.

For apps that are downloaded from places other than the Mac App Store, developers can get a unique Developer ID from Apple and use it to digitally sign their apps. The Developer ID allows Gatekeeper to block apps created by malware developers and verify that apps haven’t been tampered with since they were signed. If an app was developed by an unknown developer—one with no Developer ID—or tampered with, Gatekeeper can block the app.

Apple have announced some changes for the forthcoming 10.9.5 update for Mavericks. For an application to remain trusted, developers will have to make sure the code is signed using OS X Mavericks 10.9 or later and create a v2 signature. This new requirement will also be a requirement for OS X 10.10 Yosemite. Applications signed using these new methods will also still work for older versions of OS X, such as 10.7.5 to 10.8.

This could mean some apps, that Gatekeeper previously allowed to run, will now generate a warning until their digital signatures have been updated. As a temporary work around, users can  right-click the app and choose “Open” from the contextual menu to bypass Gatekeeper for that application. Obviously only perform the action if you are 100% sure of the authenticity of the app.

 

 

 

Handy iOS 7 tips and tricks

ios 7 tips and tricks
I’ve recently been delivering some bespoke iOS training courses across London and realised that there were quite a few useful tips and tricks that I was demonstrating, which long time users of iPhones and iPads were just were not aware of.

So, to continue in Amsys’ ongoing mission to ‘spread the Apple love’, I thought I would jot a few down here for everyone – in-case others have missed these too!

Keyboard/Typing tips (Using iOS onscreen keyboard):

1) Using Caps Lock: Double-tap the ‘Shift’ key in the onscreen keyboard for caps lock, the Shift key’s icon will change to be underlined as shown below:

ios 7 keyboard tips

2) Creating customised keyboard shortcuts: You can specify a shortcut to a long word or even a phrase so that you can simply enter a couple of letters and iOS will replace this shortcut with the full word or phrase.

Go to Settings > General > Keyboard, then tap Add New Shortcut:

customised ios 7 keyboard

Enter the full ‘Phrase’ and then enter the reduced character ‘Shortcut’ that will be automatically replaced on entering for the full phrase.

  • Tap Save to save your new shortcut.
  • You can add as many shortcuts as you wish.

In the example below, in any app where I can use the built-in iOS onscreen keyboard, if I enter ‘amst’, this shortcut will be replaced with the phrase ‘Amsys Training.’ I just need to tap the space-bar key to accept the replacement suggestion:

reduced character shortcuts ios 7

What if you have a word or phrase you regularly use, which the built in dictionary keeps telling you is wrong, and you don’t want it corrected?

Simple. Create a shortcut, only entering your word as the phrase, but leave the Shortcut field blank.

In the following example, I regularly refer to Apple’s iOS SDK in emails and messages and the built-in dictionary doesn’t like the word ‘sdk”

adding custom words ios7

To delete a shortcut, just swipe from right to left over the shortcut in the Settings > General > Keyboard > Shortcuts list and tap ‘Delete’:

delete customised shortcut

3) Alternative Text characters: Touch and hold a key, then slide over one of the suggested options to choose it. (For example, ‘E’ and ‘O’ have additional accent and character options):

alternative text shortcuts ios 7

4) How to undo the last entered edit: On a desktop or portable mac, you can easily use the ‘Cmd’ + ‘Z’ keys to undo the last entered edit. In iOS, all you need to do is ‘shake’ your device to the left and right, then tap ‘Undo’ when the pop-up appears. You can also Redo an Undo!

undo last entered text edit ios 7

undo last entered text edit ios 7

5) Define a word: In apps like Safari, Mail, Pages etc you can define a word by double-tapping it to bring up the options menu, and then tap Define:

define a word in ios 7

Useful Mail Tips:

1) Quickly delete a message in Mail: Simply swipe from right to left on messages in your inbox to quickly delete them by selecting ‘Trash’:

quickly delete a message in ios 7 mail

(Use the ‘More’ option to select features such as to quickly Reply, Forward or Flag the email):

flag mail in ios 7

2) Go back in Mail: To go back, swipe left to right from the edge of your screen:

go back in mail ios 7

3) Get back to drafts: Touch and hold the ‘Compose’ button to switch to your list of draft saved messages:

get back to drafts in ios 7

4) Search mail for a message: Swipe down in the messages list to reveal the search field if not already on display.

Searching looks at the address fields, the subject, and the message body.

To search multiple accounts at once, search from a smart mailbox at the home page of the Mail app, (such as ‘All Sent’):

search of mail message in ios 7

5) Search mail by time-frame: Type something like “August meeting” to find all messages from August containing the word “meeting”:

search mail in timeframe ios 7

6) Search mail by message state: To find all flagged, unread messages, type “flag unread.”
(You can also search for other message attributes, such as “attachment”):

search mail by message attachment ios 7

If you would like to learn more about Apple’s iOS products and how to support them, then take a look at our collection of iOS end user & support training courses.
We also have a collection of iOS App Development Courses, which may also be of interest.

If you require something a little more bespoke, then please contact our training department who will be more than happy to organise something for you.

Disclaimer:

While the author has taken care to provide our readers with accurate information, please use your discretion before acting upon information based on the blog post. Amsys will not compensate you in any way whatsoever if you ever happen to suffer a loss/inconvenience/damage because of/while making use of information in this blog.

These features were tested on an iPad (3rd Generation) running iOS v7.1.2 which was the latest iOS release at the time of writing.

Removing the NTSC presets from Final Cut Pro 7

Hey everyone.

On a recent consultancy project I had a higher education client running Final Cut Pro X but they still needed access to Final Cut Pro 7 for some legacy items. To assist their student’s choices when starting a new project, they asked that all NTSC presets be removed for the ‘new project wizard’ screen.

After some digging and trial and error I managed to get the task accomplished. In this blog I have detailed the steps I used to achieve this.

The usual Disclaimer:
While the author has taken care to provide our readers with accurate information, please use your discretion before acting upon information based on the blog post. Amsys will not compensate you in any way whatsoever if you ever happen to suffer a loss/inconvenience/damage because of/while making use of information in this blog.

Right, let’s get to it.

Locations

After some digging, I found that there are three separate locations (and 5 sub-folders) that you need to gut to get the end result. These are:

  • /Applications/Final Cut Pro.app/Contents/Resources/English.lproj/Final Cut Pro Settings/Hardware Settings/
  • /Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/
    • ./French.localized/
    • ./German.localized
    • ./Japanese.localized
    • ./zh_CN.localized
    • ./English.localized/
  • /Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/

Inside of all these folders are over 60 files I have removed. As the client had no requirement, and to reduce the complexity, I ended up completely removing the French, German, Japanese and “zh_CN” localization folders.

Final List of Items to Remove

This is my final list of items I had to remove:

1. /Applications/Final Cut Pro.app/Contents/Resources/English.lproj/Final Cut Pro Settings/Hardware Settings/DV – NTSC*.fcpre
2. /Applications/Final Cut Pro.app/Contents/Resources/English.lproj/Final Cut Pro Settings/Hardware Settings/OfflineRT – NTSC*.fcpre
3. /Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/French.localized
4. /Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/German.localized
5. /Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/Japanese.localized
6. /Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/zh_CN.localized”rm -R “/Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/Apple ProRes 422 (HQ) NTSC 48 kHz Anamorphic.fcpre
7. /Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/Apple ProRes 422 (HQ) NTSC 48 kHz.fcpre
8. /Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/Apple ProRes 422 (LT) NTSC 48 kHz Anamorphic.fcpre
9. /Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/Apple ProRes 422 (LT) NTSC 48 kHz.fcpre
10. /Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/Apple ProRes 422 (Proxy) NTSC 48 kHz Anamorphic.fcpre
11. /Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/Apple ProRes 422 (Proxy) NTSC 48 kHz.fcpre
12. /Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/Apple ProRes 422 NTSC 48 kHz Anamorphic.fcpre
13. /Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/Apple ProRes 422 NTSC 48 kHz.fcpre
14. /Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/Cinema Tools – 23.98fps from DV NTSC.fcpre
15. /Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/Cinema Tools – 24fps from DV NTSC.fcpre
16. /Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/Cinema Tools – DV NTSC NDF.fcpre
17. /Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/DV-NTSC 24p (23.98) Advanced Pulldown Removal.fcpre
18. /Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/DV-NTSC 24p (23.98).fcpre
19. /Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/DV-NTSC Anamorphic.fcpre
20. /Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/DV-NTSC FireWire Basic.fcpre
21. /Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/DV50 – NTSC.fcpre
22. /Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/DV50 NTSC 24p (23.98).fcpre
23. /Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/DV50 NTSC Anamorphic.fcpre
24. /Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/IMX NTSC (30 Mbps).fcpre
25. /Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/IMX NTSC (40 Mbps).fcpre
26. /Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/IMX NTSC (50 Mbps).fcpre
27. /Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/OfflineRT NTSC 24fps.fcpre
28. /Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/OfflineRT NTSC 24p (23.98).fcpre
29. /Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/OfflineRT NTSC Anamorphic.fcpre
30. /Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/Uncompressed 8-bit NTSC 48 kHz.fcpre
31. /Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/Uncompressed 10-bit NTSC 48 kHz.fcpre
32. /Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/Apple ProRes 422 (HQ) NTSC 48 kHz Anamorphic.fcpre
33. /Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/Apple ProRes 422 (HQ) NTSC 48 kHz.fcpre
34. /Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/Apple ProRes 422 (LT) NTSC 48 kHz Anamorphic.fcpre
35. /Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/Apple ProRes 422 (LT) NTSC 48 kHz.fcpre
36. /Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/Apple ProRes 422 (Proxy) NTSC 48 kHz Anamorphic.fcpre
37. /Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/Apple ProRes 422 (Proxy) NTSC 48 kHz.fcpre
38. /Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/Apple ProRes 422 NTSC 48 kHz Anamorphic.fcpre
39. /Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/Apple ProRes 422 NTSC 48 kHz.fcpre
40. /Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/Cinema Tools – 23.98fps from DV NTSC.fcpre
41. /Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/Cinema Tools – 24fps from DV NTSC.fcpre
42. /Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/Cinema Tools – DV NTSC NDF.fcpre
43. /Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/DV-NTSC 24p (23.98) Advanced Pulldown Removal.fcpre
44. /Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/DV-NTSC 24p (23.98).fcpre
45. /Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/DV-NTSC Anamorphic.fcpre
46. /Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/DV-NTSC FireWire Basic.fcpre
47. /Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/DV50 – NTSC.fcpre
48. /Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/DV50 NTSC 24p (23.98).fcpre
49. /Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/DV50 NTSC Anamorphic.fcpre
50. /Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/IMX NTSC (30 Mbps).fcpre
51. /Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/IMX NTSC (40 Mbps).fcpre
52. /Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/IMX NTSC (50 Mbps).fcpre
53. /Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/OfflineRT NTSC 24fps.fcpre
54. /Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/OfflineRT NTSC 24p (23.98).fcpre
55. /Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/OfflineRT NTSC Anamorphic.fcpre
56. /Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/Uncompressed 8-bit NTSC 48 kHz.fcpre
57. /Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/Uncompressed 10-bit NTSC 48 kHz.fcpre

Now that’s a lot of work!

A Note Before We Proceed Further

So, in addition to the above, the client requested a system where the NTSC presets can be re-added if needed on a Mac-by-Mac basis. Before removing the above files, I dragged and dropped the items I was to remove, into a Composer packaging session and made an installer package to replace these files. Job done!

Automation

So to repeat these steps over and over again for each Mac is a pain, so I created a shell script to do the donkey work for me!

#!/bin/bash
 
# This script has been created by Darren @ Amsys
# 0208 660 7750 - servicedesk@amsys.co.uk
# This script goes through the FCP 7 folders and removes and NTSC presetfiles to stop these being shown to the user
 
# This script is provide 'as-is' with no guarantees or warranties on its use
 
rm -R "/Applications/Final Cut Pro.app/Contents/Resources/English.lproj/Final Cut Pro Settings/Hardware Settings/DV - NTSC*.fcpre"
rm -R "/Applications/Final Cut Pro.app/Contents/Resources/English.lproj/Final Cut Pro Settings/Hardware Settings/OfflineRT - NTSC*.fcpre"
 
rm -R "/Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/French.localized"
rm -R "/Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/German.localized"
rm -R "/Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/Japanese.localized"
rm -R "/Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/zh_CN.localized"
 
rm -R "/Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/Apple ProRes 422 (HQ) NTSC 48 kHz Anamorphic.fcpre"
rm -R "/Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/Apple ProRes 422 (HQ) NTSC 48 kHz.fcpre"
rm -R "/Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/Apple ProRes 422 (LT) NTSC 48 kHz Anamorphic.fcpre"
rm -R "/Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/Apple ProRes 422 (LT) NTSC 48 kHz.fcpre"
rm -R "/Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/Apple ProRes 422 (Proxy) NTSC 48 kHz Anamorphic.fcpre"
rm -R "/Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/Apple ProRes 422 (Proxy) NTSC 48 kHz.fcpre"
rm -R "/Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/Apple ProRes 422 NTSC 48 kHz Anamorphic.fcpre"
rm -R "/Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/Apple ProRes 422 NTSC 48 kHz.fcpre"
rm -R "/Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/Cinema Tools - 23.98fps from DV NTSC.fcpre"
rm -R "/Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/Cinema Tools - 24fps from DV NTSC.fcpre"
rm -R "/Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/Cinema Tools - DV NTSC NDF.fcpre"
rm -R "/Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/DV-NTSC 24p (23.98) Advanced Pulldown Removal.fcpre"
rm -R "/Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/DV-NTSC 24p (23.98).fcpre"
rm -R "/Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/DV-NTSC Anamorphic.fcpre"
rm -R "/Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/DV-NTSC FireWire Basic.fcpre"
rm -R "/Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/DV50 - NTSC.fcpre"
rm -R "/Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/DV50 NTSC 24p (23.98).fcpre"
rm -R "/Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/DV50 NTSC Anamorphic.fcpre"
rm -R "/Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/IMX NTSC (30 Mbps).fcpre"
rm -R "/Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/IMX NTSC (40 Mbps).fcpre"
rm -R "/Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/IMX NTSC (50 Mbps).fcpre"
rm -R "/Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/OfflineRT NTSC 24fps.fcpre"
rm -R "/Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/OfflineRT NTSC 24p (23.98).fcpre"
rm -R "/Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/OfflineRT NTSC Anamorphic.fcpre"
rm -R "/Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/Uncompressed 8-bit NTSC 48 kHz.fcpre"
rm -R "/Applications/Final Cut Pro Additional Easy Setups.localized/English.localized/Uncompressed 10-bit NTSC 48 kHz.fcpre"
 
 
rm -R "/Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/Apple ProRes 422 (HQ) NTSC 48 kHz Anamorphic.fcpre"
rm -R "/Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/Apple ProRes 422 (HQ) NTSC 48 kHz.fcpre"
rm -R "/Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/Apple ProRes 422 (LT) NTSC 48 kHz Anamorphic.fcpre"
rm -R "/Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/Apple ProRes 422 (LT) NTSC 48 kHz.fcpre"
rm -R "/Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/Apple ProRes 422 (Proxy) NTSC 48 kHz Anamorphic.fcpre"
rm -R "/Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/Apple ProRes 422 (Proxy) NTSC 48 kHz.fcpre"
rm -R "/Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/Apple ProRes 422 NTSC 48 kHz Anamorphic.fcpre"
rm -R "/Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/Apple ProRes 422 NTSC 48 kHz.fcpre"
rm -R "/Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/Cinema Tools - 23.98fps from DV NTSC.fcpre"
rm -R "/Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/Cinema Tools - 24fps from DV NTSC.fcpre"
rm -R "/Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/Cinema Tools - DV NTSC NDF.fcpre"
rm -R "/Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/DV-NTSC 24p (23.98) Advanced Pulldown Removal.fcpre"
rm -R "/Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/DV-NTSC 24p (23.98).fcpre"
rm -R "/Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/DV-NTSC Anamorphic.fcpre"
rm -R "/Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/DV-NTSC FireWire Basic.fcpre"
rm -R "/Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/DV50 - NTSC.fcpre"
rm -R "/Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/DV50 NTSC 24p (23.98).fcpre"
rm -R "/Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/DV50 NTSC Anamorphic.fcpre"
rm -R "/Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/IMX NTSC (30 Mbps).fcpre"
rm -R "/Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/IMX NTSC (40 Mbps).fcpre"
rm -R "/Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/IMX NTSC (50 Mbps).fcpre"
rm -R "/Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/OfflineRT NTSC 24fps.fcpre"
rm -R "/Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/OfflineRT NTSC 24p (23.98).fcpre"
rm -R "/Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/OfflineRT NTSC Anamorphic.fcpre"
rm -R "/Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/Uncompressed 8-bit NTSC 48 kHz.fcpre"
rm -R "/Library/Application Support/Final Cut Pro System Support/Custom Settings/Uncompressed 10-bit NTSC 48 kHz.fcpre"
 
 
exit 0

In case the formatting is changed when it’s posted, I’ve also included the script as a downloadable file.

Usage

Simply run this script manually or using ARD on your clients, package it up in a payload-free installer and again, run manually or push out via ARD, load into Munki as a post-flight script for your FCP 7 install, or load into Casper as a script and run it as a policy.

Summary

There you go, I know it’s an old piece of software but it does have its uses and hopefully this will save one of you some time and effort if you end up in the same situation!

As always, if you have any questions, queries or comments, let us know below and I’ll try to respond to and delve into as many as I can.

P.S.

Well this Friday (25th July 2014) is our annual Amsys System Administrators Conference and this year will be my first year attending! The plan is for me to be a support-presenter to Hugo Costa on the Deployment and Management sessions.

Feel free to ask any questions you may have and I’ll do my very best to answer them!

Why Apple Training is now more important than ever

Following Apple and IBM’s announcement this year about their new global enterprise partnership, it has never been more important that your technical staff and users have the right skills, tools and support to manage, deploy and secure your Apple devices.

This new partnership has set a clear, resounding precedent. Apple is serious about taking a big, big slice of the enterprise market.

In fact,  VMWARE predicted Apple’s impending invasion of the enterprise, “as BYOC and BYOD continue to transform the enterprise, Macs have become a popular and preferred option compared to Windows PCs.”

Indeed, one key reason attributed to a surge in the adoption of Apple devices in the enterprise, is the increasing demands placed by the employee and senior management for Apple devices, rather than the IT personnel.

A trend that Apple recognised back in 2007 when they first launched the iPhone whereby they effectively ignored “corporate IT departments”  and instead opted to market directly to consumers.

Evidently, this tactic has worked. The iOS operating system is now already used in “92% of Fortune 500 Companies,” with the typical user citing that they “are just easier to use than their Windows-based counterparts.”

With 75% of IT administrators stating that they believe Macs are harder to support than Windows, where does this leave the corporate IT department?

When, four years ago, Apple discontinued the much loved Xserve, and along with it their popular System Administrator certifications, Apple IT professionals were left in the dark as to how they would continue to learn how to efficiently, and cost effectively, support and manage Apple Devices.

Our own team recognised this issue, which is why we continue to develop and teach our range of Mac Admin and iOS Deployment in the enterprise courses.

For more information about our OS X and iOS training courses, and how they can benefit your organisation, speak to our friendly, expert Apple Certified Training team today.

Amsys joins Cisco’s “Meraki Elevate Partner Programme”

meraki elevate partner

Meraki, the market leading cloud networking tool, provides cloud controlled WI-FI, routing and security products for wired and wireless networks. Organisations that choose Meraki to bolster their networking infrastructure can dramatically alter and improve their WI-FI landscape and centralised management capabilities.

Consequently, Meraki has taken both enterprise and education markets by storm as demonstrated by their current client portfolio. Touting high profile brands such as global shopping centre, Westfields, retail giant United Colors of Benetton UK and the prestigious, Stanford University as having already embraced Meraki as their networking tool of choice.

With Meraki installed, a network administrator can manage a large network, across several locations, from one centrally managed point. Quickly allowing for greater visibility and control, while cutting costs and complexity associated with traditional enterprise networks.

By adding the Meraki partnership to the Amsys portfolio of services we can now extend our offerings to a wider range of enterprise and education clients on a national scale.

Peter Lewsey, Amsys’ Strategic Accounts Director, and initiator of the Amsys/Meraki partnership is excited about the opportunities that this new relationship brings, stating:

“Having recognised Meraki’s scalable nature, we have been working with our  SME and Education clients so that they too can enjoy the benefits of this secure, easy to manage and cost saving cloud networking solution.”

To find out how your industry peers are already using Meraki, and the benefits the solutions can deliver for your organisation, please watch this free webinar presented by our partners at Cisco Meraki.

3 tips to improve the performance of your Mac

We all know that Macs offer fantastic performance and that the Mac OS is the most secure and efficient operating system out there, however there may come a time when you notice your Mac is running a little slowly, or not performing as well as it once did.

Let us take you through a few simple steps that can help improve performance and keep your Mac in tip top healthy condition.

Software Updates

Software updates are an essential part of the upkeep in maintaining a healthy Mac. They provide you with new features as well as under the hood fixes and bug repairs.

Software updates released by the App Store also come with release notes detailing what the update includes. It’s always worth having a quick read to see what is being improved.

os x software updates

Within system preferences, there is an option for “App Store” which  allows your Mac to check for updates automatically in the background or download them automatically. This is a very useful feature as it saves you having to open the App Store all the time and manually check for the next update.

app store preferences

Perform Regular Maintenance

Maintenance is essential to making sure your Mac is running as smoothly as possible. One of your top priorities should be ensuring your data is regularly backed up, especially if your device uses a standard hard drive.

Hard drives are mechanical parts and will eventually wear out over time, but there are some simple steps to help minimise this process.

Solid State Drives are better as they use “flash storage” for saving and storing your data. However, they can still suffer from issues. Therefore, you will still need to make sure you maintain your Mac as best as you can.

By using the recovering partition on your OS, you can easily manage the maintenance of your device.

To boot to the recovery partition you will need to start your Mac and hold the option key on your keyboard until the machine boots to the startup manager.

Once booted, open “Disk Utility” (you can also open this from the utilities folder inside the application folder on your startup disc.)

On the left of the disk utility window, you will see your device’s internal disc. In this case, it’s called Macintosh HD. Underneath,“Macintosh HD” you will see all your different disc volumes, in this example I just have the one Macintosh HD.

mac recovery partition

With the internal disc selected, you will have two options ‘Verify Disk’ and ‘Repair Disk.’ It’s always best to run verify disk first to check for issues.

With the volume selected, you will see two options ‘Verify Disk Permissions’ and ‘Repair Disk Permissions.’ If you ever experience repeated errors by an application, it’s a safe bet that something is wrong with the disk permissions.

mac disk permissions

The bootable volume will not allow you to use the option ‘Repair Disk’ until you have run ‘Verify Disk’ to see if anything is wrong.

This maintenance is a simple task, taking short amount of time to implement. I would suggest doing this once a month just to ensure that everything is running smoothly.

Hardware

Hardware plays a large role in the performance of your Mac. The first thing to do when your Mac starts to run slowly is to check how much free space you have left on your startup disc.

To see how much space you have left, select the hard drive icon on the desktop, and tap your space bar to open the information window.

You will now see how much space is free on your disc. 20GB is the recommended amount to keep free, anything under that, and your Mac will start to slow.

mac hard drive space

RAM is another component that will affect the performance of your Mac, which will also be determined by the kind of tasks and applications you regularly use. For example, if you do a lot of video and image editing you will need more RAM than your average user!

I’m always asked if more RAM will improve the performance of a Mac. The simple answer is yes, if you have 4GB of RAM and upgrade to 8GB your Mac will have double the memory that can be allocated, resulting in smoother performance.

Each Mac Model has different restraints on its internal disc capacity and the amount of RAM available to that model. To discuss the options and upgrades available for your Mac, please contact our friendly Apple Technicians who will be able to advise you on the best option for you.

If you would like to book your Mac in for an upgrade or repair, please call us on 02008 660 9999 or log your Mac online here

Disclaimer:
While the author has taken care to provide our readers with accurate information, please use your discretion before acting upon information based on the blog post. Amsys will not compensate you in any way whatsoever if you ever happen to suffer a loss/inconvenience/damage because of/while making use of information in this blog.

An interview with Senior System’s Engineer, Johannes Henkel

Ahead of our System Administrators conference later this month, we got in touch with our guest speaker, Johannes Henkel to find out about his role at JAMF Software as a Senior Systems Engineer.

How long have you been working as a systems engineer?

In general for a bit more than 20 years. Right from the very start, my career has always focused on Apple technology. For the last couple of years, I have also worked as an Apple Trainer.

What are the top 3 questions asked by your clients?

Wow – I’m not sure if I could quantify all of them like this.

Most of my customers have very different expectations and, therefore, a variety of questions – as we cover many different aspects of Device Management.

So – there might be some top 3 questions from each client, but overall….?

Let me tell you the top two replies to most technical questions like, “Can I…” or “I can not …”

  1. It depends! ;)
  2. If you do it correctly, it will work as expected!

What’s a typical day like working as systems engineer for JAMF Software?

A typical workday in my role as a Systems Engineer consists of meetings and calls with customers. Help them during the evaluation, so they can get the most out of it. Besides the meetings there is, of course, research and testing for specific challenges that the customer is facing during the evaluation.

Over the next 3 to 5 years, what do you think will be the next big change in our industry?

The big change is already in progress, I believe. Companies will more and more understand that the real value in their company lives in their employees. By giving them the tools to work with, that they actually enjoy working with, is a win not only for the employee but also for the company in terms of productivity and results.

But the really big change for us as IT folks will be, that we won’t – at least on the end user side of things – need to customize so much and put so much effort in it. So it hopefully works how it was intended to work.

I believe we will see more of what we already see: “It just Works!”

IT will stop fighting against the fire and rather start adding value for their end users in terms of better workflows and tools.

What is the best advice you have ever been given?

“Better ask too often how to do something, even if it makes you look stupid, then not to ask and make it wrong.”

What made you decide to get into tech?

For me technology is something fantastic.

Not only can it help us to stop doing things that we just need to do (like mowing the grass) – instead have technology to do it! But it also does allow us so much more communication with each other.

I started back in the days when my brother came back from the US with a solution called “First Class“ which was – back in the days before there was this thing called the “Internet“- an online-platform for people to dial in and communicate with each other.

With the look and feel of a Mac OS 7 Desktop. Great products – still exist I think ;)

What do you do to keep up with changes in your field?

Be surrounded by great people with great knowledge helps. Besides this, I love to be challenged by my customers. That keeps me going. Researching, reading, testing.

If all technology was to cease what would you do?

Pay a lot more attention to my garden and start to grow food ;)

Johannes will be presenting a 45 minute session on using JAMF Software’s Casper Suite in the Enterprise via series of case studies and demonstrations at our annual System Administrators Conference in London.

Limited tickets are still available, so please book today to ensure you don’t miss out on attending this year’s event.

Major Apple Repair workshop refurb complete

As part of our drive to keep improving customer experience and quality standards, we have recently completed a £50k refurbishment of our Apple hardware workshops, as well being awarded the ISO 9001 certification.

Custom made workbenches have been installed, all fully equipped with easier access to diagnostic tools and full electrostatic discharge protection measures.

The refurbishment has created a space that has not only increased our capacity, but created room for further, rigorous testing of those hard to isolate issues. What’s more, our new and improved, modern workstations increases Amsys’ high standards, ensuring that all devices are repaired in a clean and dust-free environment.

Alex Hawes, our Managing Director, explains:

“A couple of months ago we embarked on a major project to improve quality standards. We put an ISO 9001 quality management program in place, and I am delighted that the award of that quality standard has coincided with the completion of the refurbishment project.

We have created a much more attractive work environment for our qualified technicians, and we are all committed to delivering the best customer experience in the market.”

apple care repair workshop

apple repair workshop

apple certified repair workshop

amsys repair workshop

For more information about Apple hardware repairs, for both Apple Care and out of warranty repairs, please contact support@amsys.co.uk or call 020 8660 9999.

Using Apple’s “Color Picker” in Pages 5, Numbers 3, & Keynote 6 (iWork 2013)

Last week whilst teaching Apple’s iWork course, we were discussing Apple’s Color Picker and came across some changes in the latest versions of Apple’s Pages, Numbers and Keynote apps.

For those of you who are new to the Apple world, the ‘Color Picker’ relates to the ‘floating window’ that appears in front of documents you are working on to allow you to fine tune the colours you want to set for your text, objects, shapes, etc. The “Color Picker” default window is shown below:

colour picker iwork 2014

Most Apple Applications utilise the Color Picker. For example, Apple’s iWork suite of Keynote, Pages and Numbers. But also built-in apps such as Mail and TextEdit. There are even some third-party apps like Photoshop, which can tap into Apple’s Color Picker.

The easiest way to access the Color Picker is to use the short-cut keys of Command-Shift-C. You can then select the item you wish to modify its colours and have full control of your colour features.

However, there has always been ‘clickable’ ways to open this useful tool too.
One ‘clickable’ option is to either select the Applications’ main ‘View’ menu and select ‘Show Colors’, or select the Applications’ main ‘Format’ menu then select ‘Show Colors’:

show colours iwork

format options iwork

The other ‘clickable’ option was to simply click on the Color Picker’s icon in your document toolbar or inspector window:

Now, last October, Apple released their all new graphical versions of their iWork suite with the releases of Pages 5, Numbers 3, and Keynote 6. On first use of all 3 of these apps, there is a concern that the Color Picker is no longer available to access since the inspectors are gone. Yes, you can still use the above-mentioned short-cut keys or pull-down menu option, but the ‘quick-click’ Color Picker icon seems to have gone!

Don’t panic, it is still there, you just need to know where to look!

So, here’s what we discovered in the class.

Please note: The below is documented for Keynote version 6. However, this works just the same for Pages version 5 and Numbers version 3.

(Most or all of these steps and features may also apply to any Apple app that utilisies the Color Picker).

1) If you select an image object and wish to change its colour, (as shown below by the ‘Star shape’ in the following screenshot), you would instinctively then click on the ‘Format’ options (Paintbrush icon) in the toolbar and then select the ‘Style’ tab:

keynote formatting

2) You would then assume that clicking on the ‘Fill’ colour option would allow you to access the Color Picker since the helpful pop up states you can ‘click to choose a preset colour’:

color picker keynote 6

3) Alas, the ‘Fill’ option only offers you a preset collection of colours to choose from and no option to open the extensive granular Color Picker:

current fill keynote

4) The good news is that if you click the disclosure triangle in front of the ‘Fill’ option’s title, this increases your object colour options.

If you now ensure that you have selected ‘Color Fill’ or any other option apart from ‘No Fill’ or ‘Image Fill’ from the first pull down menu, you will now be able to see and click on the Color Picker’s small colour palette icon as shown below :

no fill keynote

Phew, it’s still there!

While we are talking about the Color Picker and now know how to get access to it, I thought I’d mention some useful features of the Color Picker that the students in my class found very useful.

Once you have access to the Color Picker, you can store your favourite customised colours into the small white cells (or boxes) at the bottom of the window.

This is easily done by using the different colour palettes at the top of the Color Picker window to create your perfect colour. Then, you can just drag and drop this colour from the main colour bar section into a vacant white cell at the bottom of the window as demonstrated in the following video:

 

You will notice that there’s a limited amount of white cells to add your custom colours to. Not to worry!

All you need to do is drag the small dot at the bottom of the window downwards to reveal up to 10 rows of 30 cells, (300 custom colours!)

custom colours keynote

Ok, so now you have some lovely custom colours, but you decide that you want to remove some of the colours that you have added.

Hmm, this isn’t as obvious since selecting a colour cell and then pressing the backspace key or trying to control/right-click the mouse button doesn’t do it. You can either drag any empty ‘white’ cell onto your coloured cell to clear it, or select white in the Color Picker area and drag this white colour OVER the cell. (These ‘empty’ cell colours are just WHITE colour cells by default).

Another useful thing to know is that these custom colour cells are global. Meaning once you have configured this in ANY Apple Color Picker, you will immediately be able to apply these custom colours in EVERY other application that uses Apple’s Color Picker! Cool!

So configure this in Keynote, it’s available in Numbers, or Mail or TextEdit!

Right. Another useful feature is the ‘Magnifying Glass’ at the top left of the Color Picker window.

After selecting this with your mouse, you can click on ANY object in your document to add an existing object’s colour to your Color Picker window and then add this to your custom colour cells.

Let’s look at an example. Let’s say that I want to change the colour of the ‘Star’ shape in my keynote slide to the precise Red of the Amsys logo.

All I need to do is open the Color Picker, select the ‘Magnifying Glass’ icon, and now my mouse is a magnifying glass ready to discover any color I want. I can click on the Amsys logo to grab the exact red and add it into my Color Picker:

amsys keynote course

I can now drag this red down into my custom color cells to always be able to apply the Amsys red to anything! Hurray!

Oh, in case you didn’t know, the ‘Magnifying Glass’ can actually be used to select ANYTHING on your Mac in ANY application to capture the colour into your Color Picker, not just the document you are working on! Try it out. Fancy the blue colour that Apple use for the Mail app? Why not add this to your custom colours!

apple mail colour

Finally. I wanted to mention an issue some people have found trying to apply the custom colour to an object in these new versions of Apple’s iWork suite.

Imagine you have opened the Color Picker, got your custom colour ready and have clicked the shape or text box that you want to apply this colour to. You have double-clicked the colour in the colour well but your shape or text hasn’t changed color, but the Color Picker color has changed.

To resolve this. All you need to do is simply close the Color Picker window, re-select/highlight the shape or text you want to change the colour of, and then re-open the Color Picker.

If you attempt to change the colour of an object using an existing Color Picker window, it probably won’t work. The Color Picker relates to the object selected BEFORE you open the Color Picker window.

Instead of closing and reopening it, you can also just click on the Color Picker icon until it is highlighted, as shown by the BLUE highlighted Color Picker icon below:

custom colour picker iwork

I hope you have found this blog useful.

If you would like to learn more about Apple’s iWork apps or just the Mac in general, then take a look at our collection of Creative and introductory training courses.

We have a dedicated 1-day Keynote course and also offer Apple’s 2-day Apple Certified Associate iWork course and exam.

Disclaimer:

While the author has taken care to provide our readers with accurate information, please use your discretion before acting upon information based on the blog post. Amsys will not compensate you in any way whatsoever if you ever happen to suffer a loss/inconvenience/damage because of/while making use of information in this blog.

This feature has been tested using OS X Mavericks v10.9.3 which was the latest Mac OS release at the time of writing.

Guest speaker announced at the Amsys Conference

We are delighted to annjamf softwareounce that this year’s conference will now also include a new 45 minute session, led by Johannes Henkel, a Senior Systems Engineer from JAMF Software.

During this session, Johannes will introduce JAMF Software’s, “Casper Suite,” as well as discussing various scenarios working as a systems engineer for their enterprise clients via a mixture of demos and case studies.

Johannes will also be joining our panel to answer your system admin related questions.

What’s more.. we haven’t had to reduce length of any of the other sessions, so if you are one of the many people who have already booked, don’t worry, as all this means is that you will be getting even more value at this year’s conference!

Amsys System Administrators Conference Schedule:

When: 25th July 2014

  • 09:15 – Registration.
  • 09:30 – Session 1: Macs in Education, a Real World Scenario.
  • 10:30 – Demo Session & Coffee Break.
  • 10:45 – Session 2: Mac & iOS Deployment.
  • 11:45 – Session 3: Mac & iOS Security.
  • 12:45 – Lunch.
  • 13:45 – Session 4: JAMF Presentation & Case Study
  • 14:30 – Demo Session & Coffee Break.
  • 14:45 – Session 5: Mac & iOS Management.
  • 15:45 – Session 6: Understanding SSL.
  • 16:45 – Panel to Close.
  • 17:00 – Mac Meetup Network Drinks.

Click here for a summary on each session.

Where: Grand Connaught Rooms, 61-65 Great Queen St, London, WC2B 5DA

Cost: £145 +VAT

Buy tickets online here or book via the form below.

 

Amsys awarded the ISO 9001 Certification

Amsys awarded globally recognised ISO 9001 certification, demonstrating commitment to quality & excellence.

ISO 9001

We are proud to announce that we have been awarded the ISO 9001 certification, the world’s most highly recognised standard for developing and maintaining quality management systems.

Led by Emily Case, Amsys’ Quality Manager, the certification recognises that our policies and procedures comply with the high standard required by ISO 9001 and demonstrate our commitment to quality assurance and customer satisfaction.

Although we already had a number of quality assurance measures in place, it was agreed that the process to achieve ISO certified status would implement a number of ISO standards that would further improve customer satisfaction, efficiency, and therefore the attractiveness of Amsys as the Apple Authorised Service Provider and Training Centre of choice.

With many of our processes independently scored as “well defined” or “excellent”, the audit described Amsys’ quality management system as:

…very well structured and is firmly embedded in the organisation. The product realisation process is well defined with controlled Policies, Processes and Procedures which can all be found within the various Quality Management System Files held on the organization’s shared drive and on the HR People System.”

Furthermore, as part of our drive to improve quality and customer satisfaction, our computer repair workshops have recently undergone a £50,000 refurbishment to create a clean, attractive and modern environment.

Alex, our Managing Director explains, “Not only have we created clean and clinical conditions in which our clients Macs are repaired, but we have improved the working environment for our staff. Both of these factors will help drive continued improvement in quality standards

Looking to the future, we plan to complete further ISO standards including Information Security certification ISO 27001 and Service Management ISO 20001, which will demonstrate our commitment to world class information security and service standards.

For more information about Amsys Apple Services, please contact support@amsys.co.uk or call 020 8660 9999.

Amsys at “Enterprise App World”

Today marks the first day of the “Enterprise App World” exhibition one of the “world’s leading multi-platform events.”

During today and tomorrow our team will showcasing our mobile training and development services, demonstrating just how iBeacons work, plus an incredible prize is up for grabs on both days!

Come visit us at stand #9 to find out about:

  • How iBeacons work.
  • The new development language “Swift.”
    and
  • Amsys Mobile Apps.
  • Amsys iOS Training.

We are also holding a competition where two lucky people will win over £6,500 worth of iOS training  with our “Ultimate iOS Enterprise Training Package!”

Courses include:

  • Beginners Objective-C.
  • Advanced Objective-C.
  • iOS App Dev – The Fundamentals.
  • iOS App Development – Advanced.
  • Beginning Swift Development.

AND

  • iOS Supporting & Troubleshooting.
  • iOS Security & Deployment.

Remember, you’ve gotta be in it to win it! So come and see us at Enterprise Apps World stand #9.

Here’s to the crazy ones

I just love Apple’s attention to detail.

If you remember the Apple campaign “Here’s to the crazy ones”, over the years they have worked the text for that poem into various parts of OS X .

To keep that trend going, they have done the same for the Swift file icon. Nice touch.

swift

Wi-Fi Explorer

There are a number of tools everyone should have at their disposal, Wi-Fi Explorer is one of them.

This great tool from Adrian Granados is the swiss army knife for networking tools on OS X.

No matter your technical level, this tool is really really useful.

At its simplest, when you launch it, it passively sits there scanning for local Wi-Fi networks.

Once these networks have been discovered it displays them in a list format with some basic information about each one. This information includes:

  • The network name
  • Signal strength
  • Channel
  • Band
  • Mode

This is all useful stuff  and you can sort the list based on any of this information. So, for instance in an ideal world your Wi-Fi network should have the strongest signal.

wi-fi-list2

Below this list you get a number of charts which allows you to visualise the networks. The default one is really useful. It creates a chart representing each network found based on signal strength and the channel number. This channel number can be the cause of a lot of Wi-Fi issues. Ideally neighbouring networks should be on different non overlapping channels. The problem you sometimes face is that most Wi-Fi routers ship using the same channel.

Where I live , Virgin Media is the dominant supplier. Its seems every other week a new Wi-Fi network appears. By using this tool I can see which channels are conflicting with the one I am using, it also shows which channels are less congested, allowing me to reach Wi-Fi nirvana.

wi-fi-charts

Beyond the basics, you can take this tool to another level. You can use it to capture a lot more information including:

  • Beacon Interval
  • Data Rate
  • Security mode
  • Encryption mode

You can also filter the list to include secure networks or insecure networks.

This tool has gotten me out of so may scrapes, I can’t recommend it enough.

It’s available from the Mac App Store, priced £1.99

 

 

JAMF Casper Certified Expert

cce certificationCCE Course Overview

Back in early May 2014, I attended (and passed!) one of the first JAMF Casper Certified Expert (CCE) courses outside of the USA.

Mike and Rob (funnily enough, from JAMF) hosted this in the lovely city of Amsterdam near the location of their new(-ish) European support offices.

It is a 4 day course covering all manner of advanced and unusual aspects of configuration, maintaining and troubleshooting Casper based solutions.

As seems to be a reoccurring theme with the JAMF guys, the course was unusual and the examination method strange. The entire course was more a gathering of experienced Casper users / administrators to show off our different methods of tackling the various scenarios proposed and sharing out ideas, much like a conference (such as JNUC – JAMF Nation Users Conference). However this was also interspersed with classroom lessons and exercises.

I also found it a great opportunity to put a few faces to names (such as Ben Toms of the Mac Mule Blog).

My History

Some of you have read my history from one of my previous blogs so I’ll try not to re-tread old ground!

With the advent of Profile Manager and the increase in SCCM capabilities, Mac Admin’s were after a solution that would provide the same functionality, specifically the increased abilities to push out software and updates, as well as advanced reporting and management functionalities. It was my boss, David Acland who led the charge to use JAMF’s Casper solution, thereby meeting these needs for our customers.

Over the next 18-24 months I was provided the opportunity to install and configure from scratch two education sector Casper deployments, both managing between 300 and 600 Macs, as well as assist with maintenance and health checks of another four customer’s sites, three of which being our customer’s, with a fourth ad-hoc, all of which allowed me to both expand my knowledge and experience, and share those qualities with our customers and our internal staff.

With JAMF’s release of their two top qualification courses outside of the USA (CCE and CJA – Certified JSS Administrator), David felt that we both had sufficient experience and knowledge to take the challenge of obtaining these ‘next-level’ certifications, and to gain even more knowledge along the way.

The Future

In the future, I plan to use my new knowledge to continually expand and improve our customer’s Casper deployments and solutions, and continually offer advice where I can, all the time continuing to gain further knowledge and experience. With the CCE course, I now feel more confident with planning and implementing large-scale solutions, and develop solutions utilising advanced tools, such as the REST API tools.

Additionally, and arguably more importantly, I have found new contacts and fellow Mac Admins whom are willing to also share their experiences and solutions either through the use of blogs, and conferences (again JNUC).

Summary

So that’s what I’ve been up to for the last while! I hope it gives you some insight into how we at Amsys work internally, and what JAMF’s CCE offers.

How about your experiences, qualifications, good courses? Casper or Non-Casper? Let us know in the comments below and I’ll try to respond to as many as I can.

The System Administrators Conference 2014

system-admin-conference-2014

The Amsys System Administrators Conference is back for its 6th year. This one day event will incorporate a mixture or seminars, demos and Q&As on range of Apple technologies and 3rd party tools.

This event will focus on, iOS and OS X Deployment, Integration and Management plus a session on OS X Yosemite and iOS 8.

Conference Information:

  • 09:15 – Registration.
  • 09:30 – Session 1: Macs in Education, a Real World Scenario.
  • 10:30 – Demo Session & Coffee Break.
  • 10:45 – Session 2: Mac & iOS Deployment.
  • 11:45 – Session 3: Mac & iOS Security.
  • 12:45 – Lunch.
  • 13:45 – Session 4: JAMF Presentation & Case Study
  • 14:30 – Demo Session & Coffee Break.
  • 14:45 – Session 5: Mac & iOS Management.
  • 15:45 – Session 6: Understanding SSL.
  • 16:45 – Panel to Close.
  • 17:00 – Mac Meetup Network Drinks.

Session 1: Macs in Education, a Real World Scenario. Schools and universities across the world are adopting Apple technologies at an ever increasing rate, in this session David Acland, head of consultancy, will take you on an insider’s guide to a real world installation and integration of 650 + Macs at a large UK university.

Session 2: Mac & iOS Deployment. An in-depth and advanced session on deploying Apple Devices in the enterprise, demonstrating the latest modular deployment tools including AutoPKG, AutoDMG, Puppet, payload free packages, Munki, DeployStudio and typical post deployment scripts.

Session 3: Mac & iOS Security. Security is a hot topic, ever more so following the events of the last year, for both consumers and corporate users. This session will take a look at the processes available to you and what you should be (and should not) doing in order to create a more secure environment for your clients.

Session 4: Mac & iOS Management. We’ll delve into the world of managing a large Mac & iOS estate, which has become increasingly important topic as more organisations integrate Apple devices into their IT infrastructure. This session will include a thorough discussion on delivering configuration profiles using packages, use of the profiles command, using MCXtoProfile, a quick review of the MDM infrastructure and delivering settings via MDM.

Session 5: Understanding SSL. SSL is used in so many technologies but it’s still misunderstood. David Acland, Senior Consultant at Amsys, will take you through how SSL is implemented and why it’s used in so many situations including Mobile Device Management and web solutions. A must for all IT support professionals

Demo Sessions: Hands on OS X and iOS management solution demos will be available for you to try out throughout the day, plus ample opportunity to get your questions answered by our fully certified team.

Panel to Close. Our panel will spend the closing session answering your questions, based on either the topics discussed during the conference, or from your own current experiences.

When: 25th July 2014

Where: Grand Connaught Rooms, 61-65 Great Queen St, London, WC2B 5DA

Cost: £145 +VAT

Buy tickets online here or book via the form below.

Amsys to run the UK’s first Swift iOS development course

swift development training

We’re proud to announce that we have just scheduled our first “Beginning Swift Development” course for the 16th of July in London, the first training centre in the UK to do so.

Swift, which was announced at last week’s WWDC keynote, has been created to make app development an easier, more accessible skill to acquire, as part of Apple’s ambitious drive to encourage more people to “Write the code. And change the world”.

This new 2 day course will be an exciting yet intensive training programme, and has been created by our team of Apple developers and Apple Master IT Trainers. During the course, you will be some of the first in the world to learn the key skills and tools needed to create iOS and OS X apps using Swift.

Although Apple will continue to support Objective-C long into the future, it has been confirmed that all iOS 8 and Yosemite applications will support development using Swift. Therefore, Swift will quickly become a pre-requisite to any budding or seasoned Apple developer’s resume.

Richard Mallion, our IT Director and Head of Mobile, explains:

“We are really excited by the opportunities that Swift bring to the app development market. The simpler structure of the programming language and the new features available to Swift, such as playground, enhance the intuitive and exciting nature of iOS App Development.

Our course, “Beginning Swift Development”, which is exclusive to Amsys, will teach both beginner and intermediate level iOS developers the key “Swift” skills to develop their own Apple Apps.”

The course, which is spread across two days, will be available at both our Manchester and London based Apple Authorised Training Centres. Throughout the course, you will learn fundamental key skills and tools such as:

  • How Swift handles values, strings and characters.
  • What classes are and how to use them.
  • Experiment with playground.
  • Plus an introduction to Xcode and how to manage and compile all your code.
  • If you are already familiar with Objective-C, the course also includes a module on combining Swift into existing apps that are written in Objective-C.

Over the last 4 years we have combined our real world app development experience with our training expertise to deliver a range of iOS development courses. Our new “Beginning Swift Development” course will be a welcome addition to our training schedule, while setting the standard for bringing new and exciting courses to the iOS development training market.

Click here for the full course agenda, and to book this course.

I’m a Swifty

So among the announcements of this year’s Apple Developer Conference was the introduction of a new programming language called “Swift”. It must be said that this took most of the developer community by surprise.

Since the introduction of OS X and iOS, Objective-C/C has been the default programming language used to build apps on these platforms. This language has and still does serve us very well. But they come with a lot of baggage. Objective-C is over 20 years old and C over 30. It must also be said that the Objective-C syntax can be slightly confusing for new developers or developers who are cross training.

So for the past few years Apple has been developing a new, modern programming language, which Swift is the result of. It builds on the best bits of Objective-C/C without the constraints of C compatibility.

What Apple has tried to do, and has achieved, is to make the language simpler and shorter. The less you have to type the better. The code you write is also a lot safer, less prone to errors.

So here are a few hi-lights of this new language

Semi Colons
You no longer need to terminate each line with a semi colon. Thats 10s of thousand of keystrokes saved.

Type Inference
With Objective-C/C, when you create a variable you always have to specify the type of value it stored, whether this was an integer, string or boolean. With Swift you no longer have to do this. Rather than the developer specify the type of data, the compiler infers this based on the data you pass to the variable.

Type Safety
Objective-C is very much a run-time language which means the type of a variable is not really known until the app is running. Swift on the other hand infers type during compilation. The upshot is the compiler can optimise the code much more efficiently, resulting in faster code execution. A win for everyone.

No More Header Files
With Swift, header files are no longer required. Your class interface and implementation are held within one file. These files have a .swift extension.

Tuples
Functions and methods in Objective-C can only return one value. A tuple allows a Swift function to return multiple results.

Mix and Match
You can mix Objective-C/C code with Swift. So if you have an existing app, you don’t need to re-write it from scratch if you want to investigate Swift.

Enumeration
Enumerating through a collection, such as an array or dictionary, is now faster and more flexible

Playgrounds
This is a new feature of the forth coming Xcode 6.  This is how Apple describes Playgrounds.
Playgrounds make writing Swift code incredibly simple and fun. Type a line of code and the result appears immediately. If your code runs over time, for instance through a loop, you can watch its progress in the timeline assistant. The timeline displays variables in a graph, draws each step when composing a view, and can play an animated SpriteKit scene. When you’ve perfected your code in the playground, simply move that code into your project. With playgrounds, you can:

  • Design a new algorithm, watching its results every step of the way
  • Create new tests, verifying they work before promoting into your test suite
  • Experiment with new APIs to hone your Swift coding skills

swift-screenshot

 

If you are an Objective-C developer there is no need to panic. Objective-C is still king, however Swift is clearly the future. For the foreseeable future, Apple will maintain parity between these two languages. One warning though. Apple did make it clear that Swift is brand new and that over time there may be some changes to the language that will require your source code to be modified.

For myself I will still be using Objective-C for all our existing projects and well as all our major projects but as soon as a small project hits my desk, I will be checking out Swift.

Swift will be available when OS X Yosemite and iOS 8 ships in the fall. At that point we will be introducing a number of new training courses based around Swift and iOS 8.

Interested in finding out more about Swift?  Then take our “Beginning Swift Development” course. The first course of its kind in the UK!

iOS 8: Adds new enterprise features

So yesterday was the keynote for Apple’s Developer Conference, where they announce what they are planning for iOS and OS X for the year ahead.

These events are normally exciting but this one in particular, Apple have out done themselves.

Apple introduced iOS 8 and among all the new features, the following are my hi-lights that I feel enterprise/business customers will love.

So in no particular order here are my favourites:

Shared Storage
Third party apps that access server/cloud based storage can now present these documents directly to your app.  So if you have a corporate server, for instance Share Point, you will now have an easier way of accessing your documents.

ios8 shared storage

Mail
Mail has had some love and attention including:

  • Free/Busy support for Exchange calendars.
  • Quick swipe to mark messages as read/unread.
  • Can now designate individual mail threads as VIP.
  • Mark external email addresses in red for additional security.
  • Automatic reply for Exchange accounts.
  • Per message S/MIME controls.

ios8 calendar

Keyboards
In my opinion this is a big one. Android has had the ability for a long time for third party companies to replace the stock keyboard. iOS 8 now supports this. SwiftKey have already announced they are porting their popular keyboard to iOS 8.

Touch ID
Developers now have APIs for Touch ID so third party apps will be able to use the finger print scanner for authentication.

MDM
Apple’s Mobile Device Management solution is quite mature but with iOS 8 we see some new features including:

  • Books and PDFs can now be automatically pushed to iOS 8 devices.
  • Devices can now be renamed over the air.
  • Query the mot recent iCloud backup.
  • Certificate based Single Sign On.
  • Prevent the user from configuring restrictions on the device.
  • Prevent internet searches using Spotlight.
  • Allow/disallow the option to erase all content on the device.
  • Disable apps from storing data on iCloud.

Data Protection
As well as Mail and third party apps, Calendar, Contacts, Reminders, Notes and Messages now have their user credentials protected with a pass code until after the device is unlocked following a reboot.

Our WWDC wish list for 2014

wwdc14-home-branding
With WWDC just around the corner (4 days in fact), the general consensus seems to be that most of the announcements during the keynote will be consumer focussed. Therefore, we thought it was only right to create our own WWDC wish list for the enterprise.

Russell Harris – Apple Master IT Trainer

  • iBeacon support in OS X. Could be useful for laptop users in a corporate environment to receive notifications when they enter a meeting room or hot-desk to a specific location.
  • Bring back Snow Leopard’s Tiered/Limited Administration feature. Mac OS X 10.6 had a feature within Server Admin to allow a non-admin user on the server to ‘Administer’ or ‘Monitor’ a single service or a collection of services. This was removed with OS X 10.7 Lion with the introduction of the server.app. This was a useful feature to perhaps allow a junior tech the ability to configure or monitor a single service but not the entire server. Or, to allow a head of department to be able to monitor a service used by their department but without any ability to modify that service.
  • Admin Webpage for Server.app configuration. Instead of using the Server.app remotely from an admin station, it would be useful to have an https webpage you could authenticate to for certain server changes.
  • Expand on the Time Machine Service’s capabilities, to make this much more than a home user/small business backup solution. For example perhaps allow admins to be able to restore items from a backup to a client from the server without having to use the client’s Time Machine interface. Or allow more granular configuration of what is and what isnt backed up and how often.

David Acland – Technical Director

Cloud accessible Time Capsules - This would help out sites that use Time Capsules so they can access their backups from other locations.

AD integration for the DEP program - So the Mac can allow the user to login with their AD credentials right out of the box.

Cheryl Lancley – Training Operations Manager

I would like to see the release of iOS certifications from Apple. This is something we get asked for all the time by our delegates who would like a certification to complement their iOS development and iOS IT training with us. Fingers crossed for 2014/15!

Darren Wallace – Senior Mac Consultant

I have an extensive list, so my top 5 are:

  • Have the DEP available over here in Europe.
  • Merge software update services and caching services into one. This would be a tweak-able service.
  • Adding the ability to replicate/cluster Apple Profile Manager. Like you used to be able to do with Open Directory/MCXs.
  • Give the Apple Remote Desktop some TLC.
  • Return the ‘once’, ‘often’, ‘always’, options into Profile Manager that we used to be able to use with MCXs.

Richard Mallion – IT Director

As well as what’s on my iOS 8 wish list, I also have the following to add:

  • A way of accessing features that currently require the device to be supervised. For example disabling activation lock.
  • An easier way to unlock a corporate phone, for example if the user has the phone as activation lock and the user has left without leaving their credentials.
  • API’s for SIRI and TouchID.
  • Another way (more open way) to supervise the tool rather than using Apple Configurator. Over the air would be nice.
  • Using iBeacon for an auto configuration solution.
  • Better management options for AppleIDs. For instance the ability to merge existing accounts. Or have two accounts linked, but one clearly marked as for work and the other for home.
  • The ability to set a default app for a specific task.

We want to hear what you want, so please feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments below…

Don’t forget your can watch the keynote live with us in London, on Monday.

Munki Report PHP introduction and installation

And I’m back on Munki posts!

What can I say? – There’s no escaping such a versatile and free tool!

So you’ve got your Munki solution up and running with a bunch of installers and maybe some settings packaged and loaded, with multiple manifests and all running smoothly.

Or is it?

  • How can you tell what client Macs are running what software?
  • What version?
  • Are some having issues installing updates via Munki?

Out of the box, Munki does not have the ability to provide this information to you, requiring you to visit each Mac individually to check its status. That’s where Munki Report PHP comes in.

Munki Report PHP (MRPHP) is based on a previous project called Munki Report but rewritten in PHP. Installation is pretty straightforward and the results are a clear and information set of lists and graphs giving you a summary of your Munki Estate.

Today’s Munki Guide

In this post, I’ll be looking to show you how to configure the server components to this solution. In a follow up, I’ll show you how to configure your client Macs and give a brief tour of the solution.

The setup is the same as for my previous Munki posts but using Mac OS X 10.9.2, Server 3.1.1 and I am using the server Mac as a client too for the demo.

Additional information can be found on the Munki Report PHP site.

Disclaimer:

While the author has taken care to provide our readers with accurate information, please use your discretion before acting upon information based on the blog post. Amsys will not compensate you in any way whatsoever if you ever happen to suffer a loss/inconvenience/damage because of/while making use of information in this blog.

Guide

You have your Mac Server installed and configured with 10.9.2 and Server app 3.1.1. This has both forward and reverse lookups configured and working fine. I will also assume that you have already followed all the steps in the original Munki guide parts 1 to 5, e.g. you have a fully working Munki Repo Server, Administration Server and Client.

Downloading and Installing the Munki Report PHP Server

1. Open your favourite web-browser and navigate to https://github.com/munkireport/munkireport-php.
2. If you’re happy to do so, using ‘git’ to pull down the project files. If not, click the “Download ZIP” icon on the right hand side.

 

munki report php

3. Once downloaded, go to your Downloads folder (Note: This may be different if you are using a Web Browser other than Safari to follow this guide) and unzip the downloaded project directory.

 

munki report downloads

4. We need to transfer the contents of this folder (e.g. all of the stuff inside the “munkireport-php-master” folder) into the root level of our website folder (by default, this will be “/Library/Server/Web/Data/Sites/Default/”. The easiest way to do this is to drag and drop. The end result should look like this:

 

munki php report master

Configuring the Munki Report PHP Server

5. Navigate to the root directory of the Web site and find the newly copied “config_default.php”. Duplicate this file and call the new version “config.php”. By default (as the name implies), the config_default file is used for the default settings whilst if you need / want to make any changes it should be done in the config file.

6. Make any required changes you need to this new config file. As-is, it should work fine but it’s always worth taking a look and seeing if there are any changes you want to make, such as Proxy settings. Once complete, close and save this file.

7. Next we need to correct / set some permissions on the ./app/db directory. The web server user (_www) needs to have read / write access to this directory. Simply run the below command to set this up:

sudo chown –R _www /Library/Server/Web/Data/Sites/Default/app/db

8. Go back to the Server.app, launch it if needed, and go to the main “Websites” section.

9. Tick the “Enable PHP web applications” box. Quit the server App.

 

enable php web applications

Configuring the Munki Report PHP user account

10. So now the server should be up and running but waiting final configuration.

11. Launch a web browser and navigate to the server. I have configured this on the server itself so I navigated to “http://127.0.0.1”. You will be warned that there is no authentication information yet configured.

 

no authentication info

 

12. Enter a desired username and password and click “Generate”. I have used “munkireportadmin” as the username in this example.

 

generate password hash

13. Munki Report PHP will now show you a line you need to add back to your config.php file. Copy this string.

 

generated hash munki report

 

14. Navigate back to your config.php file (“/Library/Server/Web/Data/Sites/Default/config.php”), open it and paste in the string you copied in step 13. Save and close the file.

 

config file munki php

 

15. Reload the web browser page to be presented with a login screen

 

munki report login

 

16. Enter the username and password you created in step 12 and hit Sign in. If all is working fine, you should see the Dashboard with some ‘first run’ messages of the database tables being created.

 

munki-report-dashboard

 

17. And that’s your Munki Report PHP server configured!

 

Summary

So we’re halfway there (well, more than halfway). Next time I’ll show you how to hook up your client Macs to your new server and a brief tour of MRPHP.

Any hints, tips or opinions? Let us know in the comments below and I’ll try to respond to as many as I can.

5 different businesses that are using iBeacons



It has been nearly a whole year since Apple announced the integration of beacon technology with iOS called iBeacons at WWDC. It is important to note that beacons aren’t limited to just iOS technology. The beacons, which are manufactured by a range of different companies including Estimote, can interact with both iOS and Android devices.

Even though initial reactions were ones of privacy concerns for consumers,  a recent survey of 1,300 UK smartphone users by eDigitalResearch demonstrated that 45% of consumers would be “willing to receive retailer messages” to their phones from Beacon technology. Consequently, we have seen a range of exciting new ways in which localization marketing can be transformed by using Beacons.

Shopping Centres

The Swan Centre is the UK’s first shopping centre to embrace iBeacons technology. By integrating iBeacons technology into their existing rewards app, shoppers can now receive localised based content and discounts from retailers, including WHSmiths and Nandos,  without the need for opening up the app or browser, or even have access to WIFI or GPS.

Supermarkets

Waitrose has begun trialling iBeacons in their new concept store in Swindon. Their app has been integrated with iBeacons to send promotions to shoppers browsing the aisles or food counters. The app also allows shoppers to scan barcodes, read reviews, save items to purchase later and pay for their shopping via a mobile wallet.

Restaurants

Popular fast food chain, McDonalds has equipped 30 of its restaurants in Germany with iBeacons. Diners initially scan a qr code and add the coupon card of their local McDonald’s to Apple’s bonus programme Passbook. Now, each time they visit a McDonalds restaurant they will be welcomed with a new offer.

Airliners

Virgin Atlantic are currently piloting iBeacons at Heathrow to improve the customer experience by connecting with Upper Class passengers throughout their journey. Initially, the trial has begun by alerting customers to have their electronic boarding pass ready when approaching the private security channel. Virgin are also exploring other ideas from, alerting staff to drops in temperatures so they can promptly provide passengers with blankets to providing content about their inflight entertainment before boarding their flight.

Healthcare

Nivea have integrated iBeacons with the app StickNFind which helps parents keep an eye on their children whilst visiting the beach! This advert is a fantastic demonstration of innovation and really illustrates the dynamic nature of beacon technology, for work or leisure.

If you would like to find out more about iBeacons, including just how the technology works, the infrastructure required to get started and more case uses, then attend our free seminar next month.

ebay compromised

Ebay are now the latest big name to have been compromised.

“ebay has suffered a security compromise requiring them to have all users change their passwords.”

So far only a press release has been released but eBay will shortly be sending emails out to their users.

If you have an ebay account, we strongly recommend you change your password now.

 

The 1984 Macintosh manual

Check out this beautifully filmed video by designer, Matthew Pearce, which takes a look at the original 1984 Apple Macintosh Manual!

Let us know if you still have, or had, a copy of this manual in the comments section below. We’d love to hear your stories.

What do I want in iOS 8?

So Apple’s annual developer conference is just around the corner and traditionally this is where they unwrap the latest version of iOS and OS X.

iOS has come a long way since 2007 and Apple has covered a lot of the major features required for any modern mobile operating systems.

So here is my wish list for iOS 8.

AirDrop
AirDrop is a fantastic feature. I use it nearly every day sending files from OS X to OS X and from iOS to iOS but what I can’t do is AirDrop a file between OS X and iOS. This would be so useful. At the moment  AirDrop on iOS works in a fundamentally different way to OS X . Mainly is the way devices discover each other. iOS uses bluetooth while OS X uses wireless. I really hope  Apple  makes changes to both iOS 8 and OS X 10.10 so AirDrop is compatible with each other.

Documents
One of the biggest issues we face is how you get documents onto an iOS device and once there how you can move documents between apps. Due to the sandboxing nature of iOS apps there currently is not an elegant way of doing this. Yes we have various methods to do this including iTunes File Sharing, email, iCloud and the “Open In”menu , but I want something a bit more useful. So what I would like to see is something equivalent to the Photos app for documents. This documents app would act like a container or central repository for docs. Docs would be copied to it and then through secure APIs, apps could be granted access to these docs in a similar way apps currently have with the photo library.

Siri
Siri has been around for a few years now, and its gradually become more useful over this time. I would really like to see Apple open up Siri to third party apps. Just image what third party developers could achieve by adding Siri integration to their apps.

Text Edit
I use Text Edit on OS X quite a lot, especially for smaller size text files. Would be nice to have the equivalent for iOS, especially if iCloud could sync between them.

Trusted Location
Android on the Moto X has a great feature where you can specify trusted bluetooth devices or networks. If the phone is connected to one of these then Android relaxes the security. For instance the lock screen is disabled. This is so useful. Why do I want all the security while I am home for instance. Obviously this would be off by default. Going one stage further it would be nice to have something similar to locations on OS X where I could set up profiles for my device. For instance when I’m in the car disable wi-fi but enable bluetooth by selecting a ‘profile’ etc.

An iTunes based payment system
Apple has an extensive payment system for their various stores. It currently has over 800 million credit cards on file. It would be great if they offered API’s so you could make purchases through your iTunes account, similar to PayPal.

So that’s my list. What do you want to see?

 

New track announced for this year’s summer camp!

vilamoura-summer-camp

Due to popular demand we have combined 2 of this year’s tracks into one complete training track.

The same deal applies.

For just £2,695, this all inclusive training event includes; your training (& exams), flights (from UK), accommodation, meals, and transfers (to and from the airport)!

ACTC Advanced Server Admin Track.

Includes:

  • OS X Support Essentials 10.9
  • OS X Server Essentials 10.9
  • Advanced OS X Server
  • Advanced Active Directory Open Directory
  • All exams

Where:

Dom Jose Beach Hotel, Vilamoura, Portugal

When:

18th – 26th June 2014

Interested? Then book today, as spaces are filling up fast.

Fill in the form below to book

Mavericks update – 10.9.3 details

Last night Apple released a new ‘point’ update to their Mac OS X Mavericks Operating System, taking the latest version from 10.9.2 to 10.9.3. The details of this update are below.

Now it has been reported that in some cases this update removes the Users folder on your Mac (/Users). What is actually happening is in some cases the folder is being hidden, not removed. It is still present and can be accessed using the method below.

The main problem with this update is that this behaviour (namely, hiding the User folder) appears to be inconsistent and currently a pattern has not been found. Out of the four Macs we’ve updated in our office, two now have a hidden User folder and two do not. Despite this, all four continue to operate fine and you should not worry if this does / does not happen to you.

However, as always, ensure you have a working backup BEFORE you run updates in case the worst should happen and the update is incompatible with an Application you use.

Accessing your User folder if it is hidden 

1) In the Finder Menu Bar, Click “Go” then “Go To Folder…”

accessing folder 10.9.3

2) In the new Window, type “/Users” and click “Go”.

type users

3) This will open a new Finder window showing you the contents of the Users folder.

open new finder window

Update: No word from Apple, but:

1. Turn off Find My Mac. It only affects Macs with this turned on.
2. Run these commands

sudo chmod 755 /Users
sudo chmod 755 /Users/Shared
sudo chflags nohidden /Users/Shared
sudo chflags nohidden Users

Don’t turn it back on again.

Update 2:

Apple have now released a new small update, iTunes 11.2.1 to fix this issue.

Source

About the update

The OS X Mavericks 10.9.3 Update is recommended for all Mavericks users. It improves the stability, compatibility, and security of your Mac.

This update:

  • Improves 4K display support on Mac Pro (Late 2013) and MacBook Pro with 15-inch Retina Display (Late 2013)
  • Adds the ability to sync contacts and calendars between a Mac and iOS device using a USB connection
  • Improves the reliability of VPN connections using IPsec
  • Resolves an issue that prevented Font Book from installing PostScript Type 1 fonts
  • Improves reliability of copying, editing and inspecting permissions of files on an SMB file server
  • Improves reliability of network home directories Improves stability when installing configuration profiles
  • Improves login speed for users in Active Directory groups
  • Includes Safari 7.0.3

 

Watch WWDC live at the Mac meetup!

wwdc14-home-branding

Watch WWDC Live at the Mac Meetup!
2nd June from 5:30pm in Soho, London

 
The Mac Meetup returns this June for an extra special WWDC event.

Find out first hand what Apple has in store for Apple IT Professionals for 2014, and discuss the announcements with your friends and colleagues, as we will be streaming the WWDC event live.

Plus, everyone who registers online, will receive a free tipple of their choice, plus various nibbles will be laid on courtesy of our MD, Alex.

So register for your ticket today.

Following the live stream, there will be plenty of time to chat with our team as well as other IT professionals from across London about everything that was revealed by Apple.

Mac Meetup Details:

Time: Arrive from 5:30pm
Date: 2nd June 2014
Where: The Warwick 1-3 Warwick Street, London W1B 5LR

So that just leaves one question. What do you think will be announced? We’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

Disk utility tip: Fix ‘couldn’t unmount disk’ errors

I have found myself recently experiencing a couple of Macs which would not allow me to repair the directory or permissions in Disk Utility, or erase/partition the drive with an error such as: ‘Disc erase failed couldn’t unmount disc’ or ‘Disk Erase failed with the error: Couldn’t unmount disk.’

couldnt unmount disk osx

Even trying to use Network Deployment tools such as Apple’s Netinstall service or DeployStudio have also failed to deploy due to these errors.

Normally, any ‘Couldn’t Unmount Disk’ error is attributed to circumstances where the boot drive is being modified or is being used by an application or process. So the first thing to do is to startup the Mac from another bootable drive such as an external drive or OS X Recovery. You can then run Disk Utility from there.

An external drive or a network drive is preferred if it is the internal hard drive you have an issue with, since the OS X Recovery is a partition on the same physical drive which may not be able to successfully unmount or modify your internal disk.

To create your own bootable disk, refer to our blog ‘Creating a Mavericks bootable install disk’.

I would strongly recommend at this stage attempting to back up any data that is required before proceeding with the following steps. Some of the following steps are destructive and will lose ALL data on your drive.

  1. If you have an external bootable disk, connect this to your Mac and power your Mac up whilst holding down the OPTION/ALT key. Then select the desired external drive from the startup manager screen and press the enter key.
  2. If you have used our method above to create a bootable installer, choose ‘Disk Utility’ from the available menu. If you have created your own bootable drive with a full system, open Disk Utility from /Applications/Utilities.
  3. Select the ‘First Aid’ tab and verify the troublesome disk, repairing if needed. Also perform a permissions repair if required.
  4. Attempt again to perform whichever task caused your ‘Couldn’t Unmount Disk’ error. (For example to Erase/Partition the disk).

Still not playing ball?

You can try booting from OS X Recovery (by holding ‘CMD’ + ‘R’ keys at startup) or an external drive and use the command line to attempt to unmount or erase the disk:

1) Once booted from OS X Recovery, select Terminal from the Utilities pull down menu. (Or if you are booting to your own bootable drive with a full system, open Disk Utility from /Applications/Utilities).

At the unix prompt enter:

diskutil list

Press RETURN. From the listing, look in the Identifier column for your disk identifier. It will look like ‘diskx’ where ‘x’ is an integer starting at 0. You should also see the name of the disk such as ‘Macintosh HD’. In my example below, the disk name is ‘Server’. Note down the disk identifier. For a single drive system this will probably be ‘disk0′ :

diskutil list

2) Now enter the following where ‘x’ is your disk identifier:

sudo diskutil unmountDisk /dev/diskx

3) Press RETURN. Enter your admin password if prompted. This should unmount all volumes of the physical drive:

unmount all volumes of the physical drive

4) Attempt again to perform whichever task caused your ‘Couldn’t Unmount Disk’ error. (For example to Erase/Partition the disk).

Still unable to work on the disk? Still getting those pesky disk errors?

Bit more drastic, but you can attempt to force a volume or the entire physical disk to unmount:

FOR A VOLUME:

1) Using the Terminal application again, booting from OS X Recovery or an external bootable drive,
Enter the following where ‘x’ is your disk identifier and ‘y’ is your volume identifier, (remember to use the ‘diskutil list’ command if you need to find out your disk and volume identifiers):

sudo diskutil unmount force /dev/diskxsy

2) Press RETURN. Enter your admin password if prompted. This should force unmount the volume:

force unmount the volume

3) Attempt again to perform whichever task caused your ‘Couldn’t Unmount Disk’ error. (For example to Erase/Partition the disk).

FOR AN ENTIRE PHYSICAL DISK:

1) Using the Terminal application again, booting from OS X Recovery or an external bootable drive.

Enter the following where ‘x’ is your disk identifier. (Remember to use the ‘diskutil list’ command if you need to find out your disk identifiers):

sudo diskutil unmount force /dev/diskx

2) Press RETURN. Enter your admin password if prompted. This should force unmount the entire physical disk and all its related volumes:

orce unmount the entire physical disk and all its related volumes

3) Attempt again to perform whichever task caused your ‘Couldn’t Unmount Disk’ error. (For example to Erase/Partition the disk).

OK, we’ve tried to be nice, but is the disk STILL not letting you work with it?

Be sure you backup your files to an external drive or second internal drive, the following procedure will remove everything from the hard drive!

We are now going to force erase the physical disk, creating a single Mac OS Extended (Journaled) volume. This should then allow you to partition and work with the physical disk again.

1) Using the Terminal application again, booting from OS X Recovery or an external bootable drive.
Enter the following where ‘MacintoshHD’ is the name of the newly created Mac formatted partition, and where ‘x’ is your disk identifier, (remember to use the ‘diskutil list’ command if you need to find out your disk identifiers):

sudo diskutil eraseDisk JHFS+ MacintoshHD diskx

2) Press RETURN. Enter your admin password if prompted. This should force erase the entire physical disk and all its related volumes, then create a single Mac OS Extended (Journaled) volume:

create a single Mac OS Extended (Journaled) volume

3) Hopefully you can now perform your desired erase, partition, installation or deployment on this drive.

NOTE: Use of the ‘sudo’ command may not be necessary for some of these actions, however, as long as you know the administrator account’s password, starting any unix command with ‘sudo’ will force the command to be run as the unix root user, so you shouldn’t have any permission issues executing the command.

To learn more about the Mac OS file system: Take Mac Support for PC and Support Essentials

 

Disclaimer:

While the author has taken care to provide our readers with accurate information, please use your discretion before acting upon information based on the blog post. Amsys will not compensate you in any way whatsoever if you ever happen to suffer a loss/inconvenience/damage because of/while making use of information in this blog.

This feature has been tested using OS X v10.9.2 which was the latest Mac OS release at the time of writing.

iOS 7 – Email encryption issue.

This is just a quick heads up. It’s just come to light that  since at least 7.04, iOS  no longer encrypts email attachments on the local file system as it should do.

By default all apps should have any data they save encrypted as an additional layer of security. But it seems this is currently not happening with the Mail App.

Andreas Kurtz is credited with finding this issue. He has a write up here.

What does this mean? Well to get to the attachments someone malicious would need physical access to your iOS device, jail break it and then put the device into DFU mode. Until Apple fixes this, it’s probably best to take extra care with your devices.

European Apple training summer camp 2014

We are pleased to announce that we will be holding our annual European Apple Training Summer Camp this June in sunny Portugal. There are 3 training tracks available, and all travel, meals, accommodation, airport transfers and training/exams are included in the price!

Not only does the event provide excellent value and offer huge savings on standard training rates, but it also gives you the opportunity to meet with other specialists and share experience while gaining certified status.

This year’s summer camp has been scheduled for 18th – 26th June. If you are interested, please book ASAP, as places are limited!

This year’s training track

ACTC/Server Admin Bootcamp.

- Support and Server Essentials bootcamp (5 days training with exams)
- Advanced OS X Server
- Advanced Active Directory / Open Directory Integration

What’s included:

The summer camp costs just £2,695 and includes, flights (to and from the UK), transfer to and from the hotel & airport (in Portugal), accommodation, all meals, all training materials and exam fees (for ACTC). Click here to book now.